While the public’s attention focuses on getting haredi men into the workplace, women have begun to develop their own wage-earning potential. These statistics from the Israel Bureau of Statistics and Bank of Israel give a perspective on women in Israel’s workforce. Seventy-three percent of women in the general population participate in the workforce. In the haredi sector, 68% of women participate in the workforce, of which 35% are working in part-time educational positions (compared to 17% in the general population). Forty-four percent of haredi women are working in part-time positions.

Orthodox women traditionally work to support the husband’s Torah studies, but in modern times, the problem has been finding workplaces that honor Orthodox modesty codes. The secular work environment is an uncomfortable place for a haredi woman. If a man extends his hand on being introduced, she’ll be in the awkward situation of explaining that she doesn’t shake hands with men. She closes her ears to office flirtations and hardens herself to casual swear words, certain kinds of humor, and gossip. To avoid these tensions, women from ultra-Orthodox communities have usually settled for low-paying jobs that offer few opportunities for advancement: teaching in schools like the ones they attended themselves, or working as secretaries in religious institutions.

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