Women still only about a third of tech employees in Israel

New report by Power in Diversity also shows Arab and ultra-Orthodox participation rates in the tech workforce remain low

Sharon Wrobel is a tech reporter for The Times of Israel.

Ultra-Orthodox young women in the Adva training program, which aims to teach them with tech skill (Courtesy)
Ultra-Orthodox young women in the Adva training program, which aims to teach them with tech skill (Courtesy)

Women continue to be underrepresented in the Israeli tech ecosystem, accounting for about 34% of the industry’s workforce, according to a 2022 report released Sunday.

The startup Israeli ecosystem diversity report conducted for the second consecutive year by Power in Diversity, an initiative set up by Alan Feld, a Canadian-Israeli founder and managing partner of Vintage Investment Partners, showed that despite a slight annual increase of 0.4% in the representation of women in 2022, male presence still dominates the tech ecosystem.

Women hold 24% of jobs in management roles, representing an increase of 6% from 2021, according to the report, which is based on an analysis of data collected from 650 active Israeli venture-backed companies that employ at least 50 workers in the country.

The percentage of women holding technological positions stands at 27.8%.

“Despite high demand for talent and extensive recruitment efforts in the first half of 2022, we have not seen any significant changes,” the report found.

About 72 VC funds and over 200 startups make up the Power in Diversity initiative, which was set up to bring sidelined communities such as Arabs, ultra-Orthodox, Ethiopians and others into the tech ecosystem. The initiative has been working for years to help tech firms and VC funds recruit employees from diverse communities and overcome inbuilt biases of which employers may not even be aware.

Among the funds included in the initiative are Viola, Pitango, Qumra, Glilot, Vintage Investment Partners, Elah Fund, Maor investments and Hetz Ventures.

Power in Diversity selects top five list of Israeli publicly traded diversified companies in the Israel tech ecosystem. (Courtesy)

“In this highly challenging political climate, where the country’s social and financial achievements are at risk, the high tech sector, which is the propeller of the economy, must strive full force to embrace women in the industry,” said Sivan Shamri Dahan, managing partner at Qumra capital and a member of the Power in Diversity’s steering committee. “Changes occur over time and we are implementing a step by step plan with the goal of achieving total gender equality in employment.”

She further urged, “We should make Haredi and Arab women, who still make up a small portion of our industry, our next focus.”

Long touted as the growth engine of the economy, the tech sector accounts for around 25% of total income tax revenue and constitutes about 10% of the workforce. At the same time, the country suffers from a severe shortage of skilled tech workers. There are about 32,900 open positions, of which 21,000 are for tech positions, according to the latest Human Capital in Tech 2021-2022 report by the Start-Up Nation Policy Institute and the Israel Innovation Authority (IIA).

“2023 will not be an easy year for startups,” said Kobi Samboursky, co-chairman of Power in Diversity and founding partner at Glilot Capital Partners. “After years of market growth, we are witnessing  cross-industry layoffs and conditions of uncertainty.”

“It is particularly in times like these that we ought to address misrepresented populations, as they are likely to suffer more harm,” Samboursky added.

The ultra-Orthodox and Arab populations, among the poorest in Israel today, are expected to constitute half of the population by 2065, according to the OECD.

The Arab population’s participation rates in the tech employment market remains low, the report showed. Arab Israelis, who represent 20% of Israel’s population, account for only 0.2% of jobs held in the startup industry. About 2% to 3% of jobs in the traditional high tech industry are held by Arab Israelis, while 16% of Arab Israelis hold degrees in STEM fields — science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

“There is an enormous amount of work and strategic review that needs to be carried out in the industry as a result of the gap between numbers,” it was noted in the report.

Among the Jewish population, it is estimated that only 0.4% of employees in startups are ultra-Orthodox, of whom the majority are women, the report said. The ultra-Orthodox population makes up 13.5% of Israeli society and holds 3% of jobs in traditional high-tech companies, according to the report.

“Especially these days, the discourse on inclusion, equality and acceptance should serve as a milestone in the conduct of all of us, especially companies in the high-tech industry, which is a source of innovation and progress,” said Power in Diversity CEO Shahar Silis. “The companies that emphasize a healthy organizational culture are more stable companies that can deal with uncertainty more effectively.”

“In the current climate, this is a significant advantage,” Silis remarked.

The report also selected the top five publicly traded diversified companies Israel’s tech ecosystem. Israeli cybersecurity firm Riskified led the list, followed by Payoneer, a developer of payment processing technologies; web content discovery firm Outbrain; online freelance services firm Fiverr, and monday.com; a developer of a workplace collaboration and management platform.

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