No glass ceiling for women in tech, says top executive

Women can go as far as they want in the technology professions, claims (female) head of Israel’s tech industry umbrella group

Participants in the IATI Women's Weekathon (Courtesy)
Participants in the IATI Women's Weekathon (Courtesy)

Is there a glass ceiling for women, a limit on the heights they can climb in their companies on their way to the top? Karin Mayer Rubinstein, chairperson of the Israel Advanced Technology Industry association doesn’t think so. “I believe the sky is the limit, and that’s what I tell my own kids,” she told The Times of Israel.

With that, she admits, reaching the sky isn’t easy. “It takes a lot of dedication, and a lot of sacrifice. But women who are dedicated can indeed have it all — both career and family. And in the high-tech industry, it might even be easier than in other businesses.”

Rubinstein herself is sort of a poster girl for that “Sky’s the limit” philosophy. She is the creator and CEO of IATI, the largest umbrella group for Israeli high-tech, biopharmaceuticals, start-up programs, and venture capital organizations.

An attorney who has worked at some of Israel’s top law firms — and on some of the top merger and acquisition deals in Israel’s history — Rubinstein four years ago took on the challenge of creating the industry group that would lobby for the Israeli tech industry in the halls of government, and provide guidance and material help on a wide number of labor, regulation, and business issues to members.

Karin Mayer Rubinstein (Courtesy)
Karin Mayer Rubinstein (Courtesy)

“We started out with four members four years ago, and today we have over 600; all the biggest multinationals that have R&D facilities in Israel, as well as incubators, start-ups, venture capital funds, and service providers — such as law firms — are members,” said Rubinstein, rattling off names like Google, Microsoft, Intel, Marvell, Amazon, Pfizer, Perrigo, Merck and GE Healthcare. “We are also involved in educational programs, working with the Education Ministry to develop programs for schools, hackathons, and so on.”

Obviously, running such an organization requires a lot of work as well as a lot of “business development,” otherwise known as sales and marketing, especially to top executives in some of the largest companies in the world — most of them men. “I never experienced any incident in which I felt held back because I am a woman. But I know that there are others who have not been as fortunate.”

It’s true that salaries are lower in tech for women than for men, and that there are fewer women in places of prominence in technology jobs, “although the heads of several of the big R&D centers — such as 3M, Kodak and EMC — are women,” said Rubinstein. “Personally, I think there is no limitation on how far women can go in the tech world, even those who choose to raise families.”

Rubinstein herself is a good example of that. A mother of three, she has managed to jump through the career hoops to rise to the top of her profession, while making time for children, a husband, and a household. “I realize not everyone is cut out for that kind of approach,” continued Rubinstein. “It takes a great deal of motivation. But women who have that kind of ambition can rise as far as their skills can take them. As far as I am concerned, there is no glass ceiling.”

And the tech world is actually a good venue for that kind of career development. “R&D centers these days operate 20-plus hours a day in many cases, but no employee can work all those hours, of course. Women who are willing to put in the hours at night can advance their careers, with the assistance of their spouses or partners — they work during the day and their wives work at night. I know several couples that have done that.”

To help women develop their career, IATI is sponsoring a special Women’s Weekathon this week, hosting female developers from the Israeli R&D centers of the following multinational corporations — Intel, Microsoft, eBay, HP Software, Marvell, Kodak, Siemens, Citi, Motorola and GM. “We are mixing up the teams from each company, so that they will work together and exchange ideas and experiences,” Rubinstein explained. “This is the first time this is being done anywhere, in honor of International Women’s Day.

“Israeli high tech is a world leader in innovation, and women have a central role and contribution to that,” claimed Rubinstein. “At the same time that we celebrate International Women’s Day, we will gather for a week of developing innovative projects. We are proud to host the only event of its kind in the world in which women developers from 10 leading multinational companies collaborate in teams and work together here in Israel.

“The hackathon sends an important message for women in the industry, to dare to break the glass ceiling, as well as a clear message to women who are still in the academy or the military, to believe in their ability and to strive to integrate into the industry,” she added.

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