An ambitious grant program designed to significantly increase financial support for female entrepreneurs and minimize the gender gap in Israel’s hi-tech industry was launched Wednesday by the Israel Innovation Authority.
Under the new plan, women-led start-ups – requiring at least one-third female ownership and a managerial or technological role in the company – will be eligible for research and development grants worth up to NIS 2.5 million ($690,000), 75% of R&D funding in the first year of the program, and up to NIS 4.5m. ($1.25m.), 70% of funding for an greatly increased budget in the second year.
“Israeli innovation is currently missing the tremendous potential offered by women entrepreneurs,” said Naomi Krieger Carmy, head of the Israel Innovation Authority’s Societal Challenges Division.
“From statistics, research and conversations on the ground, we have learned that there are many women who want to lead technological ventures, but encounter more challenges than any starting male entrepreneur. This program will help them reach a milestone in developing a product and the company, and hopefully will create further success stories and role models for many women who follow in their footsteps.”
According to the Innovation Authority, hi-tech start-ups led by women represent only 8% of all Israeli start-ups today – matching much of the rest of the Western world. Similarly, in the last two years, only 10% of applications to the publicly-funded body for start-up company support were submitted by women-led companies.
In addition to the grants, the Authority plans to open a dedicated support program for women to enable access to all the support tools available through the organization. Overall, the authority aims to double the support given to female entrepreneurs within the next two years.
The initiative joins existing programs at the Israel Innovation Authority to support underrepresented populations in the country’s innovation ecosystem, including a program to support the integration of the ultra-Orthodox community and other minority groups.
In December 2018, a study conducted by the Authority and the non-profit organization Start-Up Nation Central highlighted the lack of diversity across Israel’s hi-tech innovation sector, which it said was partly responsible for a shortage of approximately 15,000 skilled workers needed to fill open positions.
According to the study, the total female headcount in the Israeli hi-tech industry stands at 30% – including non-tech professions like marketing, HR and business development. However, women comprise only 23% of core tech professions like software engineers and only 16% of hi-tech management.