More than half of the Israeli public (55 percent) believes that a male prime minister would be better suited to deal with the Iranian nuclear threat than a woman would, according to a survey conducted by the Women’s International Zionist Organization released on Wednesday.
The survey, which was conducted amongst a sample of 500 respondents, showed that while 70% of people don't rule out that a woman could serve as prime minister in the next decade, 77 percent do not see a woman fulfilling the position of Defense Minister in the coming decade.
However, 60 percent believe a woman could be President in that same time frame.
In addition, 60 percent do not think a woman is likely to be head of the Mossad in the coming decade; a third do not believe a woman will be finance minister in the near future; and more than half of the respondents (52%) do not believe that places in government should be automatically reserved for women.
According to WIZO, which administered the survey ahead of the January 22nd elections, most of the public also believes that family life is what holds women back from advancing in political life.
A larger percentage of the population, however, would rather have a woman in government positions dealing with social issues such as health and welfare: only 12% think that a man would handle health better and 40% prefer a woman for welfare services compared to 15% who would prefer a man.
Head of WIZO’s Israeli branch, Gila Oshrat, said in a statement that the findings paint a gloomy picture of the public’s perception of women in government. In her opinion, this is partly due to the reality of the political scene in Israel, which lives in peace with the very limited representation of women in politics.
“Women's integration in political processes is an important democratic principle and a necessary condition for sustainable economic and social development,” Oshrat said, “Despite the improvement in the status of women in the past decade, we must act to promote full equality in every walk of life, and the government should implement this. The struggle for gender equality is a social and national challenge."
Labor Party Chairwoman MK Shelly Yacimovich, also addressed the findings at a WIZO conference at the Academic College of Tel Aviv-Jaffa on Wednesday and said that the public's attitude towards women in leadership poses a major challenge for women and society in general.
"The fact that only seven percent believe that women leadership can address the issue of Iran indicates that the struggle against prejudice is not over,” she said, "Women and men are born different but equal.”
“The struggle for equality on equal pay, equal division of burden in family life, equal representation in leadership, and women’s rights over their bodies are all important battles that need to be fought and I am committed to these with all my heart,” Yacimovich continued.