Elections can change. They can lead to adequate representation for women in the Knesset. We have talked and talked about this change for too long. We wish for it. We are convinced that we have the power to make it happen – but we run away and are absent in the moment of truth.
What can we do? The solution is to lead to the regulation of fixed quotas for the adequate representation of women in leadership. You, with the right to vote: It’s time to make your opinion known. Now, as the lists ask for your vote, you will make a demand for a commitment to action for gender equality. Now that you’re with your mobile in hand, send a message to your popular group of friends. Upload a post on social networks, tag the elected officials for whom you intend to vote. Send an email. Share how important the issue is. Explain that this is a major consideration on your list of priorities.
And yes, tell them that if there is no official policy to deal with the regression in the status of women in Israel and a commitment to achieve social equality – with the acknowledgment that the loss of female input causes damage to society as a whole – you will take this into account on Election Day. Make your voice heard now and until Election Day. Go vote and stay true to your values. Do not vote for a candidate who excludes women, or anyone who speaks in their favor but distances them from the top.
Proper representation quotas for women are a tool of profit in parliaments around the world and exist in 130 countries. In some countries the quotas are enshrined in legislation and binding on the parties. In many other countries the quotas are a voluntary norm that have become mandatory and parties choose to adopt them on their own initiative in their bylaws.
For us, this issue, like many other issues, remains an empty election promise that will dissipate and degenerate to the bottom of the list of national priorities. Politicians know why: For 20 years, attempts have been made to submit bills aimed at raising the proportion of women in the Knesset and the government, local authorities and other public bodies. The vast majority of the proposals are halted, because in 21st century Israel, two stable factions – Shas and United Torah Judaism – not only have never integrated women, they also prevent the coalition from making any attempt to lead change on the issue.
I had the privilege of cracking this opacity a little, seven years ago, when former MK Ifat Kariv and I managed to amend the Local Authorities Law. The law is intended to increase the rate of representation of women in local politics by providing an economic incentive to include women in realistic places on the list of factions. The amendment stipulated that factions in local authorities, at least a third of whose members were women, would receive increased funding. And the change already began in the last municipal election. The absolute numbers are still low, but we already see that this small correction has made a significant difference.
Women make up 51% of the population in Israel. The proportion of women in the Knesset of Israel at the beginning of the millennium was only 13% and today, more than 20 years later, it stands at 23%. According to data of the KEN organization, which promotes the cause of placing women in leadership roles, the 20% threshold has not been crossed, neither in the category of women serving as CEOs, nor engineers, legal advisers, treasurers, or auditors.
In fact, currently there are zero women serving in the position of CEO in any government company. Only 5% of those in charge of a local authority are women. Only 18% of elected officials in local authorities are women. This gender exclusion list is still long.
Do you think it is appropriate that since the establishment of the state, the Finance Committee, the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee and the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee of the Knesset have never been chaired by a woman?
In Israel, the trends of change for the better on this issue are slow and few. Too many lists, with men at the head of a party, choose many other men alongside them. We have the power to change that.
Establish clear rules for the advancement of women in politics.
According to a position paper of the Knesset Research Center, in order for quotas to represent women to be effective and achieve their goal of raising the proportion of women in parliament, clear rules must be set. For example, set numerical targets, and any party which does not adhere to that target will be disqualified. A sharp mechanism for implementation must be established. For example, men and women should be placed alternately on a party’s list of candidates. There must be representation of both genders in the top ten of each party.
The face of politics must change. And this fight should not be waged by women alone. Men, you are our partners in redressing this ongoing injustice.
The writer is a former member of Knesset and served as chair of the Committee on the Status of Women and Gender Equality.