Economy ministry launches program for promoting female business leaders

'Time to shatter glass ceiling for women and business’

August 1, 2019 13:11
2 minute read.
ECONOMY MINISTER Eli Cohen in Kiryat Shmona yesterday launches the Flagship Program for Promoting Wo

ECONOMY MINISTER Eli Cohen in Kiryat Shmona yesterday launches the Flagship Program for Promoting Women in Business and Industry.. (photo credit: GPO)

Industry Eli Cohen said Tuesday morning as the government launched its new flagship program for promoting female business leaders.

“A country that does not know how to use all of its human capital will not realize its potential, neither in the economic nor in the social sphere,” Cohen said. “I urge women to take advantage of the variety of benefits we offer and to establish more and more businesses that will move the Israeli economy forward.”
The ministry’s new program, called the Flagship Program for Promoting Women in Business and Industry, seeks to support female entrepreneurship by offering a series of benefits. For example, it offers preference to female-controlled businesses in distributing grant money, increases financing for female-led start-ups, and provides training courses for women in business.

The action-plan is based on a year of background research and data collection, which revealed that gender gaps increase as women move up the business ladder: While 67% of Israel’s female working-age population is currently employed, according to the OECD, women are only 22% of industry executives, and only about a third of Israeli business owners.

The conference, held at Kiryat Shmona Airport and led by Ziva Iger, director of the Industry and Foreign Investment Cooperation Authority in the Ministry of Economy and Industry, included a panel discussion among female executives.

The women lauded the new government efforts, but called for additional change.

Iger emphasized the need for a “family-supporting economy” to enable women to assume top leadership roles in business.

If the government recognized child-care spending as a tax-deductible expense and extended school hours from 1 p.m. to 4 or 5 p.m., it would be easier for women to succeed in industry, explained Intel vice president Maxine Fassberg. “We need to permit every woman who wants to and is able to work to go out in the job market and move forward. Women should be employed according to their abilities rather than affirmative action.”

Judith Richter, founder and CEO of Medinol, also condemned affirmative-action-type policies for women, noting that the solution to inequality in the labor market requires, at least in part, a reformation of the division of labor at home.

“The ‘home-work” conflict will always exist for women, but in order to move forward we have to pass the conflict on to men as well,” Richter said. “When they take a more significant part in the home-world, women will take a bigger part in the work-world.”

Female business leaders at the conference also emphasized the lack of opportunities for women to enter the technology industry: Today only 10% of technology entrepreneurs are women.

“Technological professions lead to the top of the industry pyramid, but women still avoid these professions and refrain from joining the industry, which is still considered ‘masculine,’” said Tal Kaufman, owner and president of Simtal Coatings and chairperson of the Women’s Industry Forum in the Manufacturers Association.

Ruth Polachek, CEO and co-founder of Fincheck and chairperson and founder of the company “she codes;”, noted that there are currently about 15,000 high-tech vacancies, and although many are entry- or low-level positions, they provide opportunities for women to break into the industry.

“Gender is not a barrier,” Polachek said. “Abilities and motivation are what matters. The government today offers a variety of tools, and I advise anyone to learn to use them.”

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