“When we unleash the power of women, we can secure the future for all,” UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today on International Women’s Day. Naturally, Israeli women are actively involved in the Startup Nation, but while many headlines point to female success stories in the Israeli high tech industry, the numbers tell a different story. Which begs the question: Is the fairer sex getting a fair share of the Startup Nation pie?
According to a report issued last week by Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics, only 35.5 percent of high tech workers in the country are women. In 2014, nearly 183,000 men were employed in the Israeli high tech, compared to 100,500 women. Still, Israel is closer to equality than Silicon Valley, where only 20 percent of the developers and 11 percent of executives are women. However, Israeli women earn a staggering 32 percent less than men.
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NoCamels spoke to female high tech entrepreneurs to understand the phenomenon. According to Yael Lador, co-founder of customer-loyalty startup AppFront, the problem starts at an early age. “Girls are viewed differently,” she tells NoCamels. “They hardly participate in competitive sports, they’re made to think that boys are more computer-savvy, and they end up not studying computer science in college.”
“Society paints us pink”
Liat Mordechay Hertanu, another female startup entrepreneur and the founder of personal assistant app 24Me, agrees. “It’s not fair to say there aren’t enough women in high tech, without looking at the roots of the phenomenon,” she tells NoCamels. “Very few girls take physics in high school, and girls hardly enroll into computer science and engineering in college. The process should start early on: a girl can help her father build a cabinet or fix the car.”
Hertanu says she was the only girl majoring in physics in her high school class. “Society paints us pink,” she says. “Technology has tremendously progressed in recent years, but labor equality in high tech didn’t catch on. Many young women still believe they’re not capable of learning technological professions.”
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But are they incapable? “On the contrary,” says Dr. Michal Sela, CEO of civil organization Israel Women’s Network. “The few female students who major in engineering and computer science actually get better grades than their male counterparts.”
But the lack of role models, such as female engineers, makes high tech intimidating for many women. “With not enough female mentors, getting into the high tech sector seems very scary to women,” Sela tells NoCamels. “You see many physics high school students enroll into law school.”
According to Sela, Israel will be able to have its own female role models like Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer or Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, though it would be a long process. “Discrimination still exists; though it’s illegal, there’s a lot of hidden discrimination,” she says. “All women deserve the opportunity, all women deserve to be equal, but there’s more work to be done.”
In the meantime, women need to work twice as hard, Sela says, and quotes Lewis Carroll’s Alice Through the Looking Glass: “It takes all the running you can do to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!”