Israeli Women and the Technology Sector


Written by Joseph Dunsay. After earning a Masters of Science in Ecology and Evolution, Joseph Dunsay became a science writer for international audiences. Find more Jewrotica writing by Joseph here.

Rated PG-13

An internal Google memo made headlines when it suggested that innate differences between men and women cause women to be underrepresented at that company. One post called the reaction a witch hunt, describing how ideology suppresses evidence of biologically determined differences between male and female minds. Settling the debate would require shifting through a forest worth of research papers, but it is possible to answer a related question much more easily. Can women thrive in the general workforce and in the technology sector if companies provide them with reasonable accommodations?

The experience of Israeli Haredi women entering the workforce over the past few decades proves that they can. Since 2000, the workforce participation rate for Haredi women has risen to 3 out of 4 women, the same level as Israeli women in general, with many working at tech companies that accommodate their lifestyle. That is a 30% increase in workforce participation for Haredi women. A parallel trend has brought the workforce participation rate for Haredi men above 50% for the first time since the Israeli government began tracking this statistic. Clearly, women can outnumber men in the workforce if cultural expectations encourage then to earn wages.

A comparison of Israeli statistics to American statistics suggests that cultural factors keep American women in the home. The USA’s labor force participation rate statistics show that 57% of American women participated in the workforce, about the same level as today’s Haredi men in Israel. Contrast that to the 69% of American men who participate in the workforce. The gap between American women and Israeli women is greater than the gap between American women and American men.

The demands of household chores could also explain why the average American woman spends less time at the workplace. A time use survey makes it possible to compare the schedules for married employed mothers and married employed fathers in the USA. It shows that the fathers spend more time on work and leisure than the mothers do, while the mothers spend more time on household chores and caring for family members. It is possible that women put more hours into home responsibilities because they are driven out of demanding work roles, but it is also possible that their careers suffer because they provide more unpaid labor in the home than their husbands contribute.

Although biological differences between men and women could lead to different levels of representation in companies, cultural factors probably also play a role. A review of workforce participation rates for men and women in different societies shows that segments of a population can enter the workforce in large numbers when cultural changes encourage them too. A combination of reasonable accommodations and more support at home might bring gender parity to the American tech sector.

After earning a Masters of Science in Ecology and Evolution, Joseph Dunsay became a science writer for international audiences. His LGBT erotic e-book launched in the summer of 2015.