New report reveals discrimination against women in Israeli academia

"I want to see fifty percent women among the presidents of universities and among all the positions at the top of the pyramid," says women's advocate.

October 28, 2014 19:18
2 minute read.
Ben-Gurion University

Ben-Gurion University's campus in Sde Boker. (photo credit: BEN GURION UNIVERSITY OF THE NEGEV)

There is a significant gender gap with regards to women holding senior positions in Israeli academia, according to a report released this week by the National Authority for the Advancement of Women.

During the course of the past year, the authority gathered information regarding membership for the Board of Trustees of universities and academic colleges throughout the country. According to the findings, only 22 percent of women hold positions on the board at higher education institutions, compared to 78% of men.

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The board of trustees serves as the governing body of higher education institutions, responsible for forging educational strategies, fiscal policies and appointing the president of the academic institution.

“The vision of the authority is for equality in academia.

I want to see 50% women among the presidents of universities and among all the positions at the top of the pyramid,” said Vered Swid, the authority’s director-general.

According to the report, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem has 99 men and only 31 women representing 23.8% membership on the board.

Similarly, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev has only 26.3% female representation, Weizmann Institute of Science has only 17.5% representation and Tel Aviv University has only 24.1% representation.

The Lifshitz College of Education in Jerusalem has a board of 14 members, none of whom are women.

While the vast majority of the academic institutions had low levels of female representation on the board, Gordon College of Education in Haifa and the College of Arts and Society in Netanya stood out as having equal representation among men and women.

In addition, as part of the study, the report examined the factors contributing to the barriers of sub-representation of women in key positions in academia. The findings indicated that one of the central reasons was the “unequal division of labor in the family,” in which women received “less support” in their pursuit of postdoctoral studies.

In Israel, it is considered the norm that to receive faculty positions at higher education institutions, students are encouraged to pursue postdoctoral studies at universities abroad. For women, many of whom have families and children, this has proven to be a problematic and often impossible undertaking, placing them at a distinct disadvantage.

“The findings reveal that the vast majority of academic institutions have not yet internalized the principles of equality, and I hope that from now this will change,” said Swid.

In light of the findings, Swid addressed the academic institutions where there were glaring gender inequalities and warned them that this reflected an “illegal exclusion of women.” She called on the institutions to immediately correct the deficiencies.

Swid also announced that she would award a certificate of gender equality to the academic institutions acting to promote the integration of women in key positions.

In addition, the authority established a database of women with the credentials to hold key positions, so that institutions could use it to locate suitable candidates for the board of trustees and other senior positions.

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