Meet the women putting cracks in Israel's glass ceiling

When it comes to economic participation and opportunity, Israel finishes in a lowly 66th place.

DarioHealth Director of Product Yael Lipskin-Moshe, CannAssure Vice-President of R&D Dr. Hadile Ounallah-Saad and Avgol Industries Vice-President of Global Strategy Tami Hirszhorn. (photo credit: Courtesy)
DarioHealth Director of Product Yael Lipskin-Moshe, CannAssure Vice-President of R&D Dr. Hadile Ounallah-Saad and Avgol Industries Vice-President of Global Strategy Tami Hirszhorn.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The glass ceiling in Israeli society appears to remain firmly in tact.
Last year, the country was ranked in 46th place out of 149 countries in the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Global Gender Gap report.
When it comes to economic participation and opportunity, Israel finishes in a lowly 66th place.
While women constitute 47% of the Israeli workforce today, rewards for their contribution overall are significantly lower than those received by their male colleagues.
As of 2018, women earned an average of 34% less than men, and 29% less among self-employed women, according to the WIZO Glass Ceiling Index 2018 published this week. Women earned an average monthly wage of NIS 7,633 ($2,111), compared to an average of NIS 11,663 ($3,226) among men.
Among those aiming to overcome the gender gaps presented by WIZO, the WEF and other organizations, are three leading private-sector businesswomen who joined The Jerusalem Post ahead of Friday’s International Women’s Day 2019 to discuss how they managed to break through the glass ceiling.
Arab-Israeli Dr. Hadile Ounallah-Saad, vice-president of research and development at CannAssure, is the leading woman in Israel’s burgeoning medical cannabis industry. A mother of three children, she has spent years studying cannabis strains, and therapeutic attitudes toward Alzheimer’s disease.
“There aren’t many women in the medical cannabis industry, and definitely not at senior executive levels,” Ounallah-Saad told the Post.
“There are many challenges for women who pursue senior executive-level positions, including [juggling] family obligations and the need to travel, and nobody will give you a discount just because you’re a woman,” she added.
Ounallah-Saad also offered advice to working women. “Try to find as much support as you can,” she said, “by choosing the right employer for you and your family needs. That makes your life much easier. My advice would be to choose something that you love and believe in – this is what helps you get through the tough times.”
Yael Lipskin-Moshe was responsible for managing products at Ideo Digital, Gett and Wix prior to her current position as director of product at digital healthcare start-up DarioHealth.
Yael Lipskin-Moshe.Yael Lipskin-Moshe.
“A person’s position is not because of being a man or woman, but about who they are and what they bring to the table,” Lipskin-Moshe told the Post.
“I’m not one who would try to justify my place. My belief is that I’m a doer. The value is from the work I do.”
Emphasizing that digital therapeutics is not just about creating digital solutions, but solutions that help humans and lead to a process of behavioral change, Lipskin-Moshe said she brings added value to the position as a woman.
“Digital therapeutics today is about helping users on an emotional and behavioral level, and doing this through a digital platform is really challenging,” said Lipskin-Moshe.
“I think there’s an appreciation that women are better for understanding how emotional aspects affect marketing and campaigns. In areas where you need to interact with users, I see more women. Its not all about technology, but also the human touch.”
Tami Hirszhorn has been ever-present during the last two decades at Tel Aviv Stock Exchange-listed manufacturing company Avgol Industries, acquired last year by Bangkok-based Indorama.
Starting her career as an interpreter but always focused on self-learning, Hirszhorn has progressed through a range of business roles, initially in logistics and purchasing, later in the world of exports, and finally in her current role as vice president of global strategy.
“While I was the only woman in the company’s management most of the time, I did not experience gender as an obstacle,” Hirszhorn told the Post.
“I always wanted to complete my assignments in the best possible way. I’m very focused and I wanted to prove that I deserved the position that I hold.”
Hirzhorn also offered advice. “I would tell other women to focus on being professional, working hard and proving yourself as a good and committed employee for the company.”
As talented women working in the private sector continue to chip away and eventually break the glass ceiling in Israeli society, WIZO’s Glass Ceiling Index also revealed the high wage gaps that also exist in the public sector.
According to a 2017 Finance Ministry report, women’s wages are 28% lower than male colleagues in the health system, 21% lower in the defense establishment, 15% lower in government ministries and 9% lower in the education system.
The Justice Ministry, however, continues to go against the grain with impressive statistics regarding women’s representation in all levels of its work force and regarding pay equity issues.
A report by the ministry said that the gap in equality of pay between the some 5,000 male and female ministry employees was much smaller than the average gap among OECD countries.
More specifically, the report said that senior female ministry officials were up to making 94% of what their male counterparts made, while low-ranking female officials in the Public Defender’s Office were actually making 14% more on average than their male counterparts.
Questioned about how female officials in the Public Defender’s Office could be earning significantly more than their male counterparts, a source familiar with the report said that it appeared that more female employees were working overtime hours.
In addition, the ministry report said that 57% of its management-level positions were held by women as opposed to around 40% in most public service positions.
Finally, the report said that 69% of all ministry employees were women as compared to around 64% of all public service positions.
Yonah Jeremy Bob contributed to this report.