Meet the women lighting the Independence Day torches: Intel CEO Maxine Fassberg

The faces behind the flames: South African-born business woman says gender barriers in the workplace need to be broken down.

Maxine Fassberg  (photo credit: Courtesy)
Maxine Fassberg
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The CEO of Intel Israel, Maxine Fassberg, is radically opposed to giving part-time jobs to women. She explains to The Jerusalem Post that it limits their career opportunities to that of half their male counterparts. "The world is still not a level playing field," says the businesswoman who has risen to to the top of the hi-tech company, and was selected as one of 14 women to light torches at this year's Independence Day ceremony.
"I was in the business lounge at Ben Gurion University and you could count on one hand the number of women sitting in the lounge by themselves," the South African- born olah (immigrant) says.
"If you look at the numbers, we still have a big problem in this country and in the world. We've made huge progress but it's still not where it needs to be. So often times, along the road, we all encounter the barriers and the boundaries that been put there."
Fassberg says that by and large, women have to be able to do many things in parallel, because in the majority of households it's still considered a woman's job to take care of children and do the cooking, etc. She notes, however, that at Intel --where there are some instances where both halves of a couple work at the company -- she sees many more cases where family duties are shared more equally. In some cases, the husband stays at home with the children while the wife travels for business.
"The barriers are only ones we have put there ourselves," she stresses. She says that a better set of solutions is required for young mother that will enable them to continue working full-time. "If we want young women to go back to work after having babies we need to find quality solutions for what to do with the children."
She says that at the Intel campus there is a daycare center where parents can drop their children off before work and still stay late if need. The center is open from 6:30 a.m. until 7 p.m., and Fassberg emphasizes that while she doesn't expect a child to be in daycare for all those hours, it offers flexibility.
Among the thousands of men and women working for Intel there are also haredi and Arab staff, which Fassberg says is very important. "A good manager also wants to select the best people that are available... if you use the entire pool, you can always be the very best, and I believe that each population has a different skill set." For example, she says that men and women don't process data the same way; and haredim and secular people don't approach problems in the same way. Haredim study pilpul at yeshiva, which involves critical thinking. "There isn't a good way or a bad way- there are different ways. If you keep a very diverse pool of capabilities you will get better solutions."
Fassberg said she has received amazing feedback from both friends and strangers regarding her participation in the Independence Day ceremony, and has had letters flooding in ever since the list of torch-lighters was announced. She said one young gentleman wrote her that it is his dream to one day do something worthy enough to be selected for this kind of ceremony.
"This is a role modeling kind of process for young people - to dare to dream, to dare to set their sights high and to realize this is not impossible, and to never give up," Fassberg reflects.
She describes the entire week, beginning with Holocaust Remembrance Day and ending with Independence Day, as a time to ask "who we are and where we've gone, what we need to do different, what Israel's accountable for."
"And there are a lot of questions with the political environment. There are so many things we've done in this country that are nothing short of miracles, but we haven't done it all right," she adds. "But in the end of the day, I’m very proud of this country and everything we've achieved."