Israel ranked 64th in progress towards gender equality by World Economic Forum

Despite maintaining best record in region, Jewish state drops 18 spots since 2018

Women take part in a 'Day Without a Woman' march on International Women's Day in New York, U.S., March 8, 2017 (photo credit: REUTERS/LUCAS JACKSON)
Women take part in a 'Day Without a Woman' march on International Women's Day in New York, U.S., March 8, 2017
(photo credit: REUTERS/LUCAS JACKSON)
Israel dropped 18 spots in the world ranking of gender parity over the past two years, according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2020, falling from 46th place in 2018 to 64th.
The Geneva-based WEF ranked 153 countries in its latest survey.
“If you compare Israel to the industrialized Western world, it is going backward,” Noya Rimalt, a University of Haifa law professor who specializes in women’s rights and gender equality, told The Media Line.
“In most countries you see gradual progress,” she said. “In Israel you see the opposite.”
Israel has been doing particularly poorly when it comes to the WEF’s measures for “economic participation and opportunity” and “political empowerment.”
Regarding the former, it was ranked 87 in the 2006 index compared to 117 this year. Only 27% of “legislators, senior officials and managers” in Israel are females, even though women make up 55.7% of the workforce, according to the researchers.
As for the latter, Israel went from 34 in 2006 to 64. Just 35.7% of members of Knesset, Israel’s parliament, and 27.8% of government ministry leaders, are women.
Some of the low female representation at the policy-making level comes because ultra-Orthodox parties do not allow women to represent them as lawmakers. Also, two of the four parties that make up the mostly Arab Joint List faction have never had women members of Knesset. (One of the parties is Islamist.)
“We have all these gray areas, where open discrimination against women takes place in broad daylight, and the state cooperates,” Rimalt said.
According to Michal Gera Margaliot, executive director of the Israel Women’s Network, the country has regressed on women’s equality because the government has not invested sufficient energy and resources.
“Governments in other Western countries are [trying to] to reduce the gender gap in salaries [and] promote women to higher positions in the public and private spheres. What we see in Israel is that there is very little effort put into these issues,” Margaliot told The Media Line.
“This is a red card for the Israeli government,” she stressed. “It’s a clear sign that they are just not doing their job to promote half the population.”
That the financial prospects for Israeli women are worsening comes as no surprise to Margaliot, who says that an insufficient number hold leading management positions.
“We have few senior women in decision-making positions. In the Tel Aviv 125, there is only one female CEO,” she stated, referring to the 125 most highly capitalized companies listed on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange.
The wage gap in Israel has stayed the same for more than two decades. Women make 65-68% of what the average man makes, according to the WEF report.
In addition, as in most countries, Israeli women are still expected to do most of the work when it comes to raising children.
“What we see is that in very big numbers, men are not yet caregivers in Israel. In almost all cases, it’s the full responsibility of mothers to do that,” Margaliot said.
“Once you’re the one who has to pick up the kids [from school] and be the first to leave [work], it’s a problem to get promotions,” she explained.
Certain segments of the population face more discrimination than others. Arab women tend to earn less. According to Margaliot, ultra-Orthodox women earn 40% less than other women in Israel.
Rimalt says that all Israeli women are affected by inequality in the workplace.
“The problem is across the board, not just with a specific group of women,” she said.
“When you read the numbers carefully, you see some very troubling figures. For instance, the most educated women in the labor market…, who have at least a bachelor’s degree and usually a master’s degree as well, earn 78.4% of what men do,” she said, adding that Arab and ultra-Orthodox women are usually not among these highly-educated groups.
“These are supposed to be the CEOs, the managers,” she continued, “and they are still earning around 25% less than the men.”
Rimalt attributes the pay gap in part to female-majority professions getting paid less than those that employ mostly males. She adds that laws meant to ensure fair pay, such as the Equal Opportunity Employment Act (1988), were not being enforced.
Margaliot says the government could put in place certain measures to close gender gaps. She advocates a 30% minimum quota for women Knesset members and putting more money into fighting sexual assault and domestic abuse, violence that she says “prevents women from taking part in society.”
She also said that daily work hours should be reduced and the school day lengthened so that women will not have to leave work early to pick up their children.
Even though Israel’s gender gap grew relative to most countries over the past two years, the country remains in first place for gender parity in the WEF’s Middle East and North Africa grouping – a distinction tempered by the fact that the area as a whole scored the worst for women’s equality.
Regionally, Israel is followed by the United Arab Emirates (120) and Kuwait (122). Iraq and Yemen are the world’s biggest offenders in terms of the gender gap. Of the 10 worst-performing countries for women’s opportunities, seven are in the area.
“Assuming the same rate of progress going forward,” the researchers wrote, “it will take approximately 150 years to close the gender gap in the MENA region.”