Nearly 90% of Israeli men - Jewish and Arab - said they would not find it objectionable if their wives were to have a job with a bigger paycheck than their own, according to a Machon Dachaf survey commissioned by the Center for Jewish-Arab Economic Development.
Fully 88% of Jewish-Israeli men said their wives putting more bread on the table than they did would be "fairly unobjectionable," while among Arab-Israeli men, 81% said they would find that even "very unobjectionable" and another 4% said it would be "fairly unobjectionable."
"This is quite surprising," said the center's director Helmi Kittani, who presented the data at the organization's 9th annual National Conference of Jewish and Arab Businesswomen in Israel, held recently in Haifa in partnership with the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (KAS).
"A revolution of culture and mentality has taken place" among Arab-Israeli husbands, he said. "This is change for the better."
Less progressive were perceptions in the Arab community regarding women's business acumen. Fully 47% of Arab-Israeli women surveyed and 62% of their male counterparts thought men were either "somewhat" or "very much" more skilled in business than women. No Arab men and 8% of Arab women thought that women were more skilled than men.
Among Jewish-Israelis, 21% of men and 10% of women found men more skilled, while 18% of women and 6% of men said that women were more skilled for business.
"Greater activity is needed to convince Arab women that they have equal value as men," said Kittani. "Please, Arab women, show more faith that you are worth no less than any man. There is no doubt."
Most Jewish and Arab respondents believe that most jobs can be divided into those that are more appropriate for men and those best fit for women. Only 8% of Arab men and 13% of Arab women thought otherwise, while among Jewish-Israelis 28% of men and 33% of women said that most jobs were equally appropriate for both genders.
Turning to a key point of Israeli economic policy, the survey found that while the bulk of Jewish men (85%), Jewish women (93%) and Arab women (87%) believe that the government should intervene to increase employment among women - whether by encouraging housewives to find jobs or giving incentives to employers - only 61% of Arab Israeli men surveyed thought so and 39% were opposed to such a policy.
Kittani, himself an Arab-Israeli man, called this statistic "disturbing" and proposed further research to confirm that this attitude is in fact so widespread, and analyze the reasons behind it.
While the percentage of accuracy for the statistics was not given, it was noted that the respondents numbered 500, including 425 Jews (225 women and 200 men) and 75 Arabs (39 women and 36 men).
The conference, also held in the name of Jasmine - the National Businesswomen's Association, drew some 200 businesswomen and women entrepreneurs from Jewish and Arab communities from the furthest northern and southern reaches of the country, including Druze and Bedouin women marketing traditional crafts.
Leading businesswoman Galia Albin and Jasmine chairwoman stressed the importance of investing wisely so "your money works for you, instead of you working for your money," and said Jasmine's next phase should be as a regional framework for women's economic empowerment and Jewish-Arab coexistence "as far as Abu Dhabi and Qatar."
Other speakers included Bar-Ilan University scientist Prof. Mina Teicher; business consultants Michael Gali and Ifat Shterenberg; Jamila Sa'ad ad-Din, CEO of Ramallah-based Gama Pharmaceutical Industries; Ghada Zouabi, owner of leading Israeli-Arab Web site Bokra.net; and CJAED Business Unit and Loan Fund Director Faisal Mahagneh.
"Israel's economy is already successful, but can be even more successful once more women are involved in it," KAS Israel representative Lars HÃ¤nsel told the audience.