Women’s rights not top priority for female voters, according to survey

Minimizing wage gap is most important gender-related issue, finds survey released on International Women’s Day.

Panel of female politicians at WIZO event on International Women's Day event in Jaffa (photo credit: CHEN ERAN)
Panel of female politicians at WIZO event on International Women's Day event in Jaffa
(photo credit: CHEN ERAN)
Some two-thirds of women prefer to vote for a party in line with their beliefs on issues such as security, rather than cast their ballot based on a party’s female representation, according to a survey released on International Women’s Day.
The survey, initiated by women’s Internet site Saloona, was presented at a WIZO (Women’s International Zionist Organization) event at the Na Laga’at Center in Jaffa on Sunday.
According to the results, some 92.4 percent of women intend to vote in the March 17 election. Of these women, only 41.2% said they would most likely vote for a political party that promised it would work to promote women’s issues, while nearly half, some 49.1%, did not place women’s issues as a top priority in choosing a party. The remainder – some 9.7% – was undecided.
Only 35.5% of women said their vote would count on the number of female representatives in a party.
When asked what is the most important issue that female government officials must promote, 30.7% of respondents said minimizing the wage gap, followed by minimizing social gaps (21.1%), education (15.1%), welfare (14.7%), health (7.6%) and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (5.2%).
“In a country where women comprise more than 50%, social justice is also gender equality,” said WIZO Israel chairwoman Gila Oshrat.
“Unfortunately, for years we haven’t seen an improvement in the representation of women in centers of power, and we call on women serving in the Knesset and in the government to demand that which belongs to them and initiate real change in the status of women in Israeli politics for all women in Israel,” she said.
However, the results indicated that only 39.5% of women believed that female government officials would act more on behalf of women.
Among the leading female politicians, Orly Levy-Abecassis (Yisrael Beytenu), Merav Michaeli (Zionist Union), and Shelly Yacimovich (Zionist Union) were the MKs who respondents felt would best represent women’s issues.
Michal Rozin (Meretz) and Aliza Lavie (Yesh Atid) – two MKs who have promoted numerous women’s issues in the 19th Knesset – were ranked at the bottom of the list.
Among the political parties, Yesh Atid (10%), Labor (8.8%), and Meretz (6.8%) were the parties respondents said did the most to promote women’s issues in the outgoing Knesset, while respondents said the Zionist Union (15.5%) would best promote women’s issues in the upcoming Knesset.
About half of the respondents were unable to identify which political party acted for women’s rights and which political party will continue to act to best promote women’s rights in the Knesset, the study found.
The survey was conducted by TRI Strategic Research among 502 women age 18 and up via an Internet questionnaire in February among the Jewish Hebrew-speaking population.
The findings reflect a +/-4.5% margin of error.
In addition to the survey, Saloona also examined which political parties most meaningfully contributed to promoting women’s issues in the 19th Knesset – awarding Yesh Atid the title of “Best party for women.”
Among the reasons for the title was that Yesh Atid was “the first party to powerfully introduce to the public discourse the issue of female representation as part of its worldview.”
The site reached its decision by analyzing eight factors; including the number of female representatives within the party; parliamentary action promoting women’s rights; legislation presented; the size of the party, and the manner in which women are voted or chosen into the party.
Following Yesh Atid was Meretz, which has 50% female representation, and the Zionist Union, with 38% female representation.
The Joint (Arab) List, Yisrael Beytenu and the Likud received the fourth, fifth and sixth places respectively, while Bayit Yehudi and a grouping of all the religious parties closed off the list.
At the event, WIZO presented Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid with an award of appreciation for the actions of his party in the 19th Knesset for the advancement of women in Israel.
“As long as women are discriminated against in Israel, I cannot be at peace with my masculine side,” Lapid said at the conference.
“As long as there are women who are battered, sexually abused or taken advantage of – masculinity must bow its head.
As long as women receive lower wages than men, then I as a man do not know if I am better or if I simply belong to the right gender,” he said. “I am determined to fight these phenomena because I want to enjoy that I am a man without having to apologize for it, because a real man knows that women are equal in every way.”
Also at the event, leading female MKs from across the political spectrum participated in a panel on women’s issues, fielding questions regarding employment, the wage gap, equal parenting, discrimination and retirement age.
Among the participants were MKs Ayelet Shaked (Bayit Yehudi); Michal Rozin (Meretz); Gila Gamliel (Likud); Yifat Kariv (Yesh Atid); Knesset candidate Tali Poloskov (Kulanu), Knesset candidate Noa Erez (U’Bzchutan), and Knesset candidate Ayelet Nahmias-Verbin (Zionist Union).
Also on Sunday, the Israel Democracy Institute released an analysis of the representation of women in Knesset, and found that despite a steady increase in female representation, Israel still lags behind in a global comparison.
According to Dr. Ofer Kenig, who authored the analysis, in the span of 25 years the number of women in the Knesset rose from a low of seven seats in the 1988 election to a peak of 27 seats in the 2013 election for the 19th Knesset.
The IDI said that based on the most recent public opinion polls, it expected that the 20th Knesset will maintain the record high level of women’s representation, with some 28 female lawmakers comprising 23.3% of the legislature.
Despite this rise, Israel will only rank in 70th place globally with regard to female representation in politics – a drop from the 64th place in 2013.
“The drop in Israel’s international ranking that is expected, despite the slight increase in the representation of women in the Knesset, indicates that the rate of improvement in the representation of women in the Knesset is far from satisfactory and that Israel is lagging behind the global trend in this area,” Kenig said.
“If the predictions are correct, in the last two years, six countries will have ‘overtaken’ Israel.
After several significant leaps forward in the international ranking, Israel is regressing,” he said.
Another area in which Israel is lagging behind is the wage gap between men and women.
According to data collected by women’s group Na’amat ahead of International Women’s Day, the wage gap in Israel stands at some 34%.
As such, on average women make approximately NIS 3,300 less per month than their male counterparts.
In comparing monthly salaries across all employment sectors, Na’amat data revealed that a wage gap existed across all industries, even those in which the percentage of women employed was greater than men.
According to the findings, even in the field of education, in which women comprise a vast majority of employees, some 77%, the wage gap still stands at 31%. In the banking industry, where women comprise 58% of employees, their average salary is some NIS 4,000 less than that of their male counterparts.
“As long as the labor market does not become family friendly there is no chance that the wage gap will be minimized,” said Na’amat Israel president Galia Wolloch.
“The family culture is gradually changing. Men do want to be more involved in the upbringing of their children, while the job market and employers still see women as the only homemakers.
The employers are not willing to allow men to work fewer hours while their female counterparts stay longer hours at work, thus allowing them to demand higher salaries and competing equally in the job market,” she said. “The work place must become more flexible and provide sufficient conditions in order to eliminate the gender wage gaps.”