Israeli companies help raise funds for Ukraine by promoting diversity and inclusivity

Arab diversity and inclusion in Israeli business has been picking up momentum in recent months, particularly in the hi-tech field as the traditional talent pool has all but dried up.

  Elah Fund's manager, Calanit Valfer (photo credit: CALANIT VALFER)
Elah Fund's manager, Calanit Valfer
(photo credit: CALANIT VALFER)

Last month, leading companies from throughout Israel and around the world gathered for the Sustainability for Ukraine event, which featured a 24-hour web-a-thon on the future of sustainability, in order to raise funds to support civil society and sustainability in Ukraine. The campaign has raised over $170,000.

The event featured participation from Israeli nonprofit organization Ma’ala, a corporate membership organization promoting Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in Israel. Ma’ala hosted a one-hour panel of the web-a-thon devoted to diversity and inclusion in business, moderated by its CEO, Momo Mahadav.

“It’s not as if we’re on top of the world, but I think the work here on diversity inclusion is quite interesting,” he told The Jerusalem Post. “In a nutshell, what we see in Israel is quite a lot of bottom-up interventions: sort of informal interventions that are supported by management and those who are in charge, but it’s less of the top-down policies that we see in other countries.”

Strauss Group's diversity and inclusion 

As an example of Mahadav’s point: a recent diversity and inclusion effort made by Strauss Group (which attended Ma’ala’s panel) involved an extensive crowdsourcing campaign, wherein the company made a call to employees to suggest ideas to raise awareness and improve gender equality in Israel. “Eventually it [garnered] a lot of interest, and the ideas were taken on by several organizations,” he said.

 Momo Mahadav, CEO of Maala. (credit: SHARON AMIT) Momo Mahadav, CEO of Maala. (credit: SHARON AMIT)

Also in attendance at Ma’ala’s panel was Co-Impact, a nonprofit that has made exemplary progress in Israeli business efforts toward effective diversity and inclusion.

“Co-Impact’s approach is very much about the processes that you adopt within a company, for instance, a designated steering committee with Arab-Israeli employees, and members of the management team overseeing the progress on Arab inclusion,” Mahadav explained. The organization’s value-based agenda combined with its mode of operation as an internal consultant gives it a very unique approach to Arab diversity.

Arab diversity and inclusion in Israeli business has been picking up momentum in recent months, particularly in the hi-tech field since the traditional talent pool has all but dried up in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and the rising cost of living.

Data is emerging that points to peripheries such as the Arab and ultra-Orthodox sectors as the next source pools for valuable hi-tech talent. “Something like 30% of first year students in the Technion doing computer science and engineering are Arab-Israelis. Of those, the majority – 60% – are women. The greatest candidates in five years from now are Arab women engineers,” explained Calanit Valfer, managing partner at Elah Fund, a VC firm which focuses on principles such as diversity, inclusion and carbon reduction.

“The real challenge in Israel is not hiring these people – it’s making sure that they’re retained,” Valfer said. If you make your minority-sourced employees feel welcome and valued, “then the likelihood of those employees being retained – and really being worth the effort, resources and money it took to recruit them – is much higher,” she said.

“From a business perspective, diversity and inclusion have real substantive benefits.”