The first ladies of tech

With apps like and companies like DMG and WiShi, women are making inroads into hitech – and bringing their substantial technological know-how and motivation with them.

Liat Mordechay Hertanu (photo credit: COURTESY OF 24.ME)
Liat Mordechay Hertanu
(photo credit: COURTESY OF 24.ME)
What does the “Start-up Nation” need to do in order to mature into the “Innovation Nation”? That is the million- dollar question that movers and shakers in Israel’s booming tech ecosystem are always asking themselves.
While everyone is familiar with Israel’s entrepreneurial prowess and the mind-boggling exits that follow – case in point: Google’s acquisition of Waze last year for over $1 billion – what needs to happen in order for there to be an Israeli multinational giant? There are many answers, ranging from tax breaks for companies that choose to stay in Israel to encouraging schools to place a heavier emphasis on subjects like computer engineering. But there is one invaluable resource that remains largely untapped: Women.
If the old adage dictates that behind every successful man is a woman, you can be sure that the same is true for every successful company. She may be the wife of the CEO, waiting in the wings while she quietly encourages her husband to reach for the stars. She might even be the chief marketing officer, informing the world of the revolutionary product developed by the tech mavens at her company. But she will hardly ever be the company’s CEO or founder. In fact, less than 10 percent of C-level startup executives are women.
There are, however, a few women that are determined to turn that statistic around. One such woman is Karin Mayer Rubinstein, CEO of Israel Advanced Technology Industries, the country’s largest umbrella organization for hitech and life sciences. A former lawyer, Mayer Rubinstein gave up a stable legal career in favor of the far rockier world of startups and R&D.
In an interview with the Magazine, Mayer Rubinstein expressed her hope that 2014 would see more women entrepreneurs.
“It just makes business sense to employ women,” she says. “The sector is an untapped resource with huge potential, because women have both the technological know-how and the motivation.”
According to Mayer Rubinstein, the main reason that women are more hesitant than men to make the leap into entrepreneurship is because C-level jobs demand a rigorous 24/7 work ethic and a life/work juggling act of Herculean proportions. But one start-up hoping to assist women (and men) in getting all their domestic chores and work deadlines done on time is
Much more than just another “to-do” app, functions as a virtual personal assistant that you carry in your pocket. From organizing your cooking to your conference calls, the app integrates everything in one place and will even link to a live assistant if you need a real pair of hands to help. It’s therefore not surprising that the founder of is a woman, Liat Mordechay Hertanu.
In previous jobs, Mordechay Hertanu found that she needed to prove she was better than her male peers, which resulted in endless working hours and lots of travel. Any time she had left was devoted to just trying to manage life’s daily routines. Hence, was born – around the same time as her third child.
“With each baby came a decision of career changes,” she says. “I tend to say I have three shifts, one at the office, the second at home with the kids and the third at my working table, every day from 9 p.m. until the a.m. hours. Time to myself is very limited.”
But Mordechay Hertanu is far from bitter.
“This is the price I pay, but I write the check with lots of love and satisfaction.”
One company contesting the perception that the hi-tech world is dominated by men is DMG, an Israeli-based company that provides mobile and social advertising solutions for advertisers and publishers in 195 countries. “Sixty percent of our staff is made up of women who are succeeding in all levels – from account managers, team leaders, directors and VPs,” says Inbar Chap, DMG’s co-founder and deputy CEO. “And gender diversity is just as important as cultural diversity in any office environment.”
According to Chap, building a successful career while raising a family is no longer considered “having it all.”
“It’s either a personal choice or a financial necessity,” she says. And for Chap, it isn’t about who gets to wear the pants.
On the contrary, for the most part women like Chap, who are working in high-powered jobs, aren’t left to deal with family life alone. “Today, as women are taking on big jobs in all industries, men are more involved in the domestic side of life. My husband and I work together as partners both in raising our family and supporting our professional and personal goals.”
Speaking of pants, WiShi is a personal styling platform that aims to revolutionize the way we approach retail therapy. WiShi – a mash-up of “Wear It, Share It” – uses existing social media platforms to help users style one another, allowing anyone to become a personal stylist. Since their humble beginnings in JVP’s media lab incubator, WiShi’s two female founders Lia Kislev and Hila Angel are taking the fashiontech world by storm and Business Insider listed their company in its top Israeli startups for 2013.
Kislev’s own experience at WiShi has led her to believe that while women will spend the majority of their time focused on important aspects of their work, men will waste time playing “ego games.”
That, coupled with the fact that it is a fashion startup, is why WiShi prefers to hire female employees. But she still believes that women have a way to go if they are to catch up with their male counterparts.
“In the Startup world you need to take risks all the time,” says Kislev. “In general, men are less afraid of taking risks than women. In order to close this gap, we as women need to stop being afraid. We’re not going to close the ‘achievement gap’ until we close the ‘ambition gap.’” Today there are more and more initiatives that aim to help women get their ideas off the ground, including Google’s Campus for Moms and Yazamiyot, a networking group for women entrepreneurs.
And to counter the negative trend of venture capital being funneled almost exclusively to male-initiated start-ups, there is even an Israeli-based micro-venture capital fund called Eva Ventures – founded by three women – that is dedicated to promoting female entrepreneurship.
In fact, there are even programs for girls before they become adults, like Google’s “Mind the Gap!” and Alliance- Kol Israel Haverim’s “Cracking the Glass Ceiling.” The latter was created by Orit Shulman, to level the playing field at a younger age by providing eighth-grade girls who do well in math and science with ways to strengthen their skills, partly through mentorship.
There are 25 female entrepreneurs acting as mentors, including’s Mordechay Hertanu.
According to Chap, the fact that senior positions in Israel’s economy are increasingly being filled by women is a sign of things to come. Noted Chap: “If a woman like Dr. Karnit Flug can be the head of the Bank of Israel, it’s only a matter of time before we see an Israeli woman at the head of a global corporation.”