New campaign calls for gender equality in Israel Prize

The National Authority for the Advancement of Women also calls out Similac television commercial for undermining equal parenting.

October 7, 2014 17:36
2 minute read.
2014 Israel Prize ceremony

2014 Israel Prize ceremony. (photo credit: SASSON TIRAM)

The National Authority for the Advancement of Women launched a new campaign this week calling for gender equality in awarding the annual Israel Prize.

In the campaign, the authority, which is part of the Prime Minister’s Office, noted that since the establishment of the prize, only 101 women – 15% of all laureates – have received the award, compared to 574 men.

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The Israel Prize is largely regarded as the state’s highest honor. It is presented annually on Independence Day in a Jerusalem ceremony in the presence of the president, the prime minister, the Knesset speaker and the Supreme Court president.

Vered Swid, the authority’s director-general, called on Education Minister Shai Piron, who commissions the prize, to include gender considerations in the selection committee’s deliberations on who should receive the award.

“The obligation to maintain gender equality is not fulfilled in awarding the Israel Prize.

Even after the state comptroller ruled in 2010 that over the years there was discrimination against women in the Israel Prize, the situation has still not changed,” said Swid.

As such, she has requested that more women be on the selection committee.

“There is importance in the equal composition and in increasing female representation on the selection committees that decide the award recipients,” Swid explained.

“If the committee is comprised of three, then it is appropriate that two out of the three [judges] be women, to correct a historical injustice.”

The director-general also pointed out that the past Independence Day was marked by a celebration of women, and said she hoped this year would bring a significant change for the Israel Prize – with women making up at least half of the laureates.

Last week, Swid called on the Second Broadcasting Authority to remove a commercial for Similac baby formula from television.

In a letter to the authority and to Abbott Israel, the company responsible for Similac, Swid wrote that the commercial “undermines the principles...embodied in equal parenting.”

The commercial shows a group of mothers exchanging messages on the popular WhatsApp application about the health and nutrition of their children. The WhatsApp group includes a father in the messages, to which he responds, “Girls, you added me by mistake....”

“This advertisement implants stereotypical perceptions and affects and impairs all actions leading to equal relationships and family life between couples,” said Swid.

“The message that mothers and/or women are the sole and exclusive caregivers in raising children is obviously an incorrect message. This message restricts women to stereotypical and offensive positions and harms their efforts for promotion and empowerment, and therefore, there is a strong need to eradicate [the commercial].”

In response to the letter, the Second Broadcasting Authority removed the commercial and replaced it with a new one.

“This is the first time in history the Second Broadcasting Authority has taken down a commercial,” said Swid. “I think that it sends a strong message to the advertising agencies that placing women in stereotypical positions is not acceptable.”

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