Fight discrimination against young mothers, Web site urges

"I've worked in five different companies but nothing has been permanent and I've probably had more than 100 interviews," says one mother.

baby 88 (photo credit: )
baby 88
(photo credit: )
When Adi Ilani gave birth to her first child two years ago, she did not even consider the possibility that the human resources company where she'd previously been working full-time would prevent her from returning after an extended maternity leave. "I asked them if I could extend my maternity leave beyond the three months and they agreed at first," says Ilani, who has both a bachelor of arts and a master's degree in social Science. "After seven months I told them that I was ready to come back but they kept putting me off, telling me to call back another time. Eventually, after nine months, I went in to talk with them and they told me that my former job was taken and that there was no longer a place for me." Being fired from her job was only the start of her problems, says the 34-year-old Kfar Saba resident. Since then, she has not been able to find permanent employment at a salary that reflects her experience and skill level. "I've worked in five different companies but nothing has been permanent and I've probably had more than 100 interviews," says Ilani, who is now considering legal action against her former employer. "If I go after a full-time job, they always say that it's not suitable for someone with children. Even if I tell them that I am qualified and can work hard or that I won't take any breaks, not for coffee or cigarettes, and then I can work an hour or two less each day, they either still turn me away or offer to pay me half of the full-time salary." She continues: "Sometimes I ask myself why I bothered to study for seven years. It's like the minute I became a mother, all my experience and education was automatically erased." According to Gilad Dayan, director of on-line employment center, Ilani is only one of thousands of young mothers who encounter discrimination when it comes to being considered for employment. "There is a real lack of knowledge in Israel about the benefits of hiring young mothers," says Dayan, who ahead of Israel's Mother's Day on Tuesday has called on Minister of Labor, Trade and Industry Eli Yishai to enforce existing legislation that prevents employers from discriminating against women with children. "In general, mothers tend to work much harder, they do not take breaks or waste time during the working day and if they have to take time off to be with their children they will make up the time in other ways." Dayan himself makes a point of hiring young mothers, and says he also spends much of his time trying to explain to employers the benefits of working with such women. "It's very difficult to find quality staff these days," continues Dayan, whose own wife and mother of his children is struggling to find employment. "Someone who has gone through the experience of raising a child is much more likely to be a suitable and conscientious candidate for the workplace." Dayan also points out that turning a potential employee away because she has children is actually against the law and that it is about time the Labor, Trade and Industry Ministry tackles the problem. "It is in the interest of the state to encourage every group of the population to be part of the workforce, including mothers and people over 40," he says. "Of course, the state cannot force any employer to hire someone but offering them certain benefits for taking on women with children will go some way to addressing this issue." Tziona Koenig Yair, who was recently appointed by the ministry as Israel's first equal opportunities employment commissioner, says that discrimination against women in the workplace is not just a problem for women but is also a social issue. "We need to be moving towards more family-friendly workplaces," she says. "Today it is women who are being turned down because of parenthood but tomorrow it could affect men's work/life balance." Koenig Yair, a former director of the Israel Women's Network, says she hopes that within the next few months the Equal Opportunities Employment Commission, which started functioning just over a month ago, will begin operating as ombudsmen in cases of unfair discrimination in the workplace for all genders and minority groups. The commission will sue any discriminatory employer, she says. "Until we are ready to receive the public, however, I do encourage people to seek out legal advice through non-government organizations," she says. "I hope [the commission] will manage to change society's attitudes on all forms of discrimination." A spokesman for Yishai said that the minister is obviously against any form of discrimination and that he would respond shortly to Jobby's call for action.