Several years ago, Bella Abrahams, the public affairs director at Intel Israel, spoke to a group of female students from the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. She discussed her career journey and shared her challenges and decisions along the way. She also provided some insights on how to prepare for job applications and sending resumes.
After some time, Abrahams got a call. A young student on the line told her how helpful her speech was and how, by using Abrahams’ tools, the young woman got the job of her dreams.
That made Abrahams think.
There are thousands of women in Israel with knowledge and experience that they can share with other women who are at the start of their careers. Why not gather all of this wisdom and harness artificial intelligence technology to create and share a list of tips for women around Israel?
That is how the “AI for Women” project came to life.
“If we want to make real change, we must cooperate,” said Abrahams in a YouTube video in Hebrew about the project. Women have the “moral duty” to help other women succeed. “Share knowledge, experience, insights, share the good, and also the pain,” she said.
The project uses artificial intelligence tools to gather tips and advice from thousands of Israeli women, and processes the information, analyzing it and grouping it into common themes and insights, to make it accessible to other women at all stages of their career.
Abrahams, who started her own career in the tech industry 20 years ago, said in a post on the AI for Women website (Hebrew) that she had often worked much harder than the men on her team to prove her worth.
“Many good people have succeeded and are successful in their careers and have reached senior positions, but still the progress of women in the Israeli labor market is moving slowly,” Abrahams wrote on the website, where women can upload tips and read those left by others. “From our representation in senior positions to the wage gap, we are still very far from the day when the labor market, in its essence and composition, is truly egalitarian.”
‘Make your voice heard, make choices every day’
Israel lags behind most developed countries in gender equality, coming in 31st in a ranking of 129 countries by the 2019 SDG Gender Index. The highest-ranking nation was Denmark, followed by Finland, Sweden, and Norway.
Data compiled by the Israel Democracy Institute shows that out of 267 government ministers that have served in Israeli governments as of March 2021, only 24 have been women — less than 9%.
According to the UN Human Development Report, in 2019, 87.9 percent of adult women reached at least a secondary level of education compared to 90.7 percent of their male counterparts. Female participation in the labor market is around 59.7 percent compared to 68.5 for men. Wage gaps between women and men in Israel have narrowed over the years but are still large, ranging from 32% to 42% in 2017, depending on the calculation method, according to the Taub Center for Social Policy Studies.
In addition, women are among those that have borne the brunt of the coronavirus pandemic, as they tend to work fewer work hours per week and more often hold temporary positions, with lower rank, lower salaries and lower paid jobs than their male counterparts. They are also generally the ones who have chosen to take leave and stay home with their out-of-school children, as their male partners are the ones that earn the fatter salaries.
For the AI for Women project, Abrahams teamed up with Shira Guskin, deep learning software engineer at Intel Labs, and formed a team that would create software to collect all of the information and analyze it.
“It is about using AI for social benefit,” Guskin said in a phone interview with The Times of Israel. Using natural language processing, the team summarized the texts, extracted the variety of topics they addressed and then clustered them in groups of similar subjects.
From the more than 2,500 tips gathered in a year, the software gleaned the five most important insights provided by women for women: 38% of the tips in the database talked about the importance of investing in career development: employ the same dedication you have in your work to learn, evolve, and set long-term goals. Realize that the journey is as important as the outcome.
Twenty-three percent of the women talked about having self confidence and fearlessness: believe in yourself and know your worth. Do not be afraid to take risks, get out of your comfort zone, take on roles that may seem “too big for you” and leverage opportunities for your advantage. Use every opportunity to express your opinion. Be ready to fail.
Twenty percent of the women said that people are key: build a support network, get yourself a mentor, learn to collaborate with colleagues, and avoid people who generate negative energy. Remember, your success is also the success of others.
Ten percent talked of the importance of love: spread love wherever you go. Do your job with love, and love the people you work with. No engine is stronger than that. Love will also help you achieve a balance between work, home and other aspects of your life.
‘Be generous with yourself, strive for excellence’
Nine percent of the tips spoke of the importance of using intuition: trust your gut feeling and bring your emotions to work with you. Use them as a compass to help you navigate your professional work.
Abraham’s own tips, listed on the website, include imagining yourself at the end your career journey and what you’d like to have achieved by then; dream big; maintain balance, with family, health and work; and jump into the deep end, even if the mission seems too big for you. Make your voice heard, make choices every day, be generous with yourself and remember that you are where you are because of your hard work. Strive for excellence, help others and don’t hesitate to get help yourself.
The Intel team has now teamed up with Supersonas, a social initiative to promote equality in decision making and influential crossroads, in order to bring in tens of thousands of added woman’s voices and advice and to make all of that wealth of constantly updated information available to all.
“Our aim is to raise the issue of gender inequality in all of the industries, not just the technology sector,” said Guskin. “We want to inspire and motivate. Economies need diversity and different skills, and women bring a different set of skills” to the workplace.
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