Karnit Flug 370.
(photo credit: REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun)
Much has been made of the fact that newly appointed Bank of Israel Governor
Karnit Flug is a woman.
Justice Minister Tzipi Livni noted, for instance,
that “finally, we too realized that gender is not relevant when it comes to
professionalism and we’re not afraid to appoint a woman to a senior financial
position, even if it’s considered a ‘masculine’ job.”
Culture and Sport
Minister Limor Livnat congratulated Flug for making “another crack in the glass
The local news media, meanwhile, focused not only on the fact
that Flug will be the first of the fairer sex to serve as governor, but also
noted that Flug joins a fairly long list of women in key economic positions. In
the Treasury, women hold three of the top eight positions: There is Yael Andorn,
who was appointed director-general of the Treasury earlier this year by Finance
Minister Yair Lapid; Michal Abadi-Boiangiu, who has been serving as accountant-
general since 2011; and Dorit Salinger, the commissioner for capital markets,
insurances and savings, whose appointment was approved last month.
banking sector, three of the five largest banks have women at the helm: Smadar
Barber-Tsadik has been serving as CEO of First International Bank since 2007;
Rakefet Russak- Aminoah took over as CEO and president of Leumi Bank from
another women, Galia Maor, last year; and just last week Lilach Asher-Topilsky
was appointed CEO of Israel Discount Bank.
That women are appointed to
key economic and financial positions in our dynamic and competitive economy is
undoubtedly a positive development; that we are so conscious of these talented
people’s femininity is proof that there is progress to be made in our attitudes
toward gender equality.
Ideally, it should be taken for granted that in
the Treasury, in the banking industry and in other sectors women serve in senior
positions where they have power and influence. Woman make up half the
population, it is only natural that they have equal representation in even the
most elite strata of society.
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The tendency to analyze a female
executive’s decisions based on the fact that she is a woman and to compare her
managerial style to men’s might have a negative impact on the way she does her
For instance, a woman might be wary of bringing to her position a
uniquely feminine approach to management – more cooperation, more communication,
less bottom-down decision-making – and adopt an artificially “masculine”
managerial style in an attempt to prove that she is no different from her male
peers. In contrast, by minimizing the importance of gender, we give women in the
highest positions more freedom to make decisions and help them to feel
uninhibited in their climb to the top.
Men are never scrutinized for the
gender-related aspects of their decision-making process. Women should not
While we should be proud of tremendous headway that Israel has
made in fostering gender equality, we must also recognize that there is room for
improvement. The present government includes 27 women, or 21.6 percent, the
largest percentage of females ever elected to the Knesset.
is still relatively low and about the same level of notoriously male-chauvinist
countries like Italy.
Apparently, in Israel dominant macho circles
wielding political power are not always interested in sharing resources with
In a 2012 World Economic Forum survey, Israel ranked high in
numbers of women participating in the labor force – though more needs to be done
in the Arab sector.
The ratio of men to women in professional and
technical jobs was also relatively equal.
But Israel lags behind in
measures of economic gender equality. Women do not get equal pay for equal
Male executives in Israel earn on average 43 percent more than
female executives, based on a review by the Knesset Committee on the Status of
Women of the top wage-earners employed by companies listed on the benchmark Tel
Could it be that part of the reason women earn less than
men is a self-imposed glass ceiling, resulting from our society’s persistent
hypersensitivity to gender?
We should be proud that Flug and other women are
filling key financial and economic positions. But we should fight barriers that
remain, whether these be explicit gender discrimination or more subtle forms of
societal attitudes and norms.
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