In a region where women are all too often excluded from public life, Israeli women stand out as leaders in politics, law, science, medicine, mediation and conflict resolution.
Gender equality is enshrined in Israel’s 1948 Declaration of Independence and has been implemented through law and public policy, starting with a landmark piece of legislation known as the Equal Rights for Women Law.
In a region where women are all too often excluded from public life, Israeli women stand out as leaders in politics, law, mediation and conflict resolution. In Israel, we take pride in the fact that we have four female ministers, three female heads of political parties and that women comprise about half of our academia and our judiciary.
Israel has been committed to gender equality ever since its establishment, and continues to promote and aspire to full and real equality in all aspects of life. While Israel, like many societies, faces real challenges on gender equality issues, major progress has been made in recent years towards gender equality in the workplace and appropriate representation of women.
Advancing the status of women is viewed in Israel as a universal human rights issue. As such, it receives significant attention and widespread support. Israel’s Authority for the Advancement of the Status of Women, situated within the Prime Minister’s office, publishes a comprehensive guide on women’s rights, sponsors innovative research, heads an inter-ministerial committee to promote family-friendly workplaces, and oversees the appointment of a gender advisor for every local government authority in Israel.
The Parliamentary Committee on the Status of Women in the Knesset offers a platform for discussing, drafting and promoting gender-oriented legislation in our national legislative body. Israeli legislation requires a review of all proposed laws for gender implications. This requirement is based on the rationale that every policy has different implications for men and women, as they have unequal access to power and resources.
In the area of employment, the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission acts as an ombudsman in cases of workplace discrimination against women and minority groups. The Commission has the authority to investigate complaints of discrimination on the grounds of gender, pregnancy, fertility treatments, and parenthood and to bring legal action against employers who violate anti-discrimination laws.
In the international arena, the Golda Meir Mount Carmel Training Center (MCTC) was founded in Haifa in 1961 with the aim of training professional women and men from developing countries and transitional societies, providing them with the necessary tools for women’s empowerment. In November 2015 the MCTC held its 29th International Women Leaders Conference Promoting Gender Equality through Economic Empowerment, and emphasizing the centrality of gender equality, women’s economic empowerment and women and girls’ rights in the 2030 global agenda.
Counsellor Nelly Shiloh spoke at the United Nations in September 2015, addressing the role of women in countering terrorism and violent extremism. She noted that while women are often the first victims of violence, they are kept on the periphery of the public sphere and decision-making positions. Israel has fully endorsed the vision of a society in which women are given equal opportunity to choose a path that will enable them to reach influential positions and pave the way for a better society.
At the Foreign Ministry: There are currently 22 women serving as heads of Israeli diplomatic missions abroad – out of a total of 106 resident missions and 7 roving ambassadors. Two women (out of a total of six) are serving as regional administrative officers.
At the ministry in Jerusalem, three of the 18 deputy director generals are women, as are six of the 28 heads of bureau, and 36 of the 85 department heads.
Status of Arab women
The Authority for the Advancement of the Status of Women devotes special efforts and resources to the advancement of Arab women such as mapping women’s associations, working together with steering committees on all relevant factors and conducting surveys and conferences for women and policymakers regarding employment, education, health and violence, as related to Arab women.
The Authority, together with the Authority’s relevant steering committee, established a work plan for promoting the status of Bedouin women in southern Israel on issues pertaining to entrepreneurship, raising awareness to the issue of women’s health, empowerment courses and prevention of family violence.
In the last decade there was a significant increase in the number of Arab women entering higher education frameworks, especially in the regional colleges located near their places of residence, and today make up a majority of the Arab student population. There has been a parallel increase in high school graduates among Arab female pupils.
- At the end of 2014, there were 3,042,900 women aged 15 and up living in Israel. Women 65 years old or older constituted 12% of the total female population, compared to 9.6% among the male population.
- Life expectancy for men in 2014 remained constant at 80.3 years for men while for women it increased by 0.2 to 84.1 years.
- The average age at which women give birth to their first child rose from 26.5 in 2004 to 27.5 in 2014. A total of 75% of mothers are employed in the work force.
- The average monthly salary for women wage earners in 2014 was NIS 7,439, while for men it was NIS 11,114.
- In 2015, the percentage of women in the work force who were unemployed was 5.4%, as opposed to 5.1% for men.
- While women constituted 57.5% of people employed in academic professions in 2015, they formed only 32.2% of people in management positions. In high-tech, women constituted 36.2% of the total workers.
- Education: The percentage of female high school students eligible for matriculation certificates was higher than that among males: 68% as opposed to 55%.
- The average educational level of Arab women in Israel is higher than that of Arab men: 13.7 years of study for women as opposed to 12.0 for men.
- In the 2014-15 academic year, of the 311,800 students in various institutions of higher education in Israel, 58.1% (181,000) were women. In contrast, in 1969-70 women constituted less than half of the student population (43.3%).
- Fields of study with the highest percentage of female students were the paramedical professions (82.7% of the student body) and education (80.6%).