Flug and gender

Barriers still remain, whether these be explicit gender discrimination or more subtle forms of societal attitudes and norms.

Karnit Flug 370 (photo credit: REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun)
Karnit Flug 370
(photo credit: REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun)
Much has been made of the fact that newly appointed Bank of Israel Governor Karnit Flug is a woman.
Justice Minister Tzipi Livni noted, for instance, that “finally, we too realized that gender is not relevant when it comes to professionalism and we’re not afraid to appoint a woman to a senior financial position, even if it’s considered a ‘masculine’ job.”
Culture and Sport Minister Limor Livnat congratulated Flug for making “another crack in the glass ceiling.”
The local news media, meanwhile, focused not only on the fact that Flug will be the first of the fairer sex to serve as governor, but also noted that Flug joins a fairly long list of women in key economic positions. In the Treasury, women hold three of the top eight positions: There is Yael Andorn, who was appointed director-general of the Treasury earlier this year by Finance Minister Yair Lapid; Michal Abadi-Boiangiu, who has been serving as accountant- general since 2011; and Dorit Salinger, the commissioner for capital markets, insurances and savings, whose appointment was approved last month.
In the banking sector, three of the five largest banks have women at the helm: Smadar Barber-Tsadik has been serving as CEO of First International Bank since 2007; Rakefet Russak- Aminoah took over as CEO and president of Leumi Bank from another women, Galia Maor, last year; and just last week Lilach Asher-Topilsky was appointed CEO of Israel Discount Bank.
That women are appointed to key economic and financial positions in our dynamic and competitive economy is undoubtedly a positive development; that we are so conscious of these talented people’s femininity is proof that there is progress to be made in our attitudes toward gender equality.
Ideally, it should be taken for granted that in the Treasury, in the banking industry and in other sectors women serve in senior positions where they have power and influence. Woman make up half the population, it is only natural that they have equal representation in even the most elite strata of society.
The tendency to analyze a female executive’s decisions based on the fact that she is a woman and to compare her managerial style to men’s might have a negative impact on the way she does her job.
For instance, a woman might be wary of bringing to her position a uniquely feminine approach to management – more cooperation, more communication, less bottom-down decision-making – and adopt an artificially “masculine” managerial style in an attempt to prove that she is no different from her male peers. In contrast, by minimizing the importance of gender, we give women in the highest positions more freedom to make decisions and help them to feel uninhibited in their climb to the top.
Men are never scrutinized for the gender-related aspects of their decision-making process. Women should not either.
While we should be proud of tremendous headway that Israel has made in fostering gender equality, we must also recognize that there is room for improvement. The present government includes 27 women, or 21.6 percent, the largest percentage of females ever elected to the Knesset.
However, this is still relatively low and about the same level of notoriously male-chauvinist countries like Italy.
Apparently, in Israel dominant macho circles wielding political power are not always interested in sharing resources with women.
In a 2012 World Economic Forum survey, Israel ranked high in numbers of women participating in the labor force – though more needs to be done in the Arab sector.
The ratio of men to women in professional and technical jobs was also relatively equal.
But Israel lags behind in measures of economic gender equality. Women do not get equal pay for equal work.
Male executives in Israel earn on average 43 percent more than female executives, based on a review by the Knesset Committee on the Status of Women of the top wage-earners employed by companies listed on the benchmark Tel Aviv-100 index.
Could it be that part of the reason women earn less than men is a self-imposed glass ceiling, resulting from our society’s persistent hypersensitivity to gender?
We should be proud that Flug and other women are filling key financial and economic positions. But we should fight barriers that remain, whether these be explicit gender discrimination or more subtle forms of societal attitudes and norms.