Women do not have it easy in Israel. Women are openly discriminated against, and suffer greatly when it comes to getting a job and advancing in the workplace. Supposedly, the issue is simple. Employers do not want to take the risk having a worker gone for 3 months of maternity leave. While even this prejudice is deplorable, but maybe somewhat understandable, it is certainly not the case. A more true statement is that women suffer tremendous prejudice in Israel and even more so if they are married and of childbearing age.
While researching my thesis for my MBA (it was about HR in Israel) I came across several papers dealing with different reasons as to why women receive lower salaries and fewer benefits in Israel. Some claimed that the Olim who came from more Eastern countries were sexist themselves, and therefore as the country progressed, they made it more sexist. Other claim that the country is trying to focus on not discriminating against Olim, and has not had time to deal with women’s rights. Another group blames the army, claiming that women do not advance in Israeli society significantly because they cannot advance significantly in the army. Finally, some blame the women themselves for being too old fashioned. I personally believe that while there may be some truth in some of these statements, it is certainly not as simple as these statements make it out to be.
So now the question is what to do practically. And as always, the answer is to educate yourself and call discrimination for what it is. I know one women who recently went through a very difficult job search. At the end, she found a nice job, but the contract was written in such a way that they will never pay her for sick day, nor maternity leave (yes, it can be done.) Is it immoral? Yes. But she took it. She needed the money and a job with poor benefits is better than no job at all. But at least she knows what she is in. Lawyers get paid a lot of money to make discrimination sound very fancy; by calling it what it is, the woman knows that when she finally finds a job that will not penalize her for being a woman, she will accept it.
I have heard a lot of other advice given to women in Israeli society, most of which I disagree with. One of the guest lecturers I heard during my MBA told the women to just tell a potential employer she is not having a baby in the near future. They are looking at her stomach anyways, and by addressing the problem, she can get the elephant out of the living room. Others have told women to just expect lower salaries.
My advice for women is to shop around until you get a regular stable, salaried job without one of those shady contracts that basically removes your rights. And like I always advise women and men alike, accept a lower salary if there is room for a future in the company. In the meantime, take what you can get, while still keeping you eyes open for something else. We are in a depression and some money, even without benefits, is better than no money at all. Perhaps try to take a bad job only part time, so that you’ll still have time to look for a job.
Also, ask other women what places are good to work for and then target them (see part one of this series for how to target a company.) Hopefully, as time goes on, Israel will make it into the 21st century. In the meantime, look for a few years, and once you find that job, give it all you have and in time the sexist employers of Israel will see that they are missing out.
And remember, living well is the best revenge.