Women in Israel in 2021

February 2021

Women’s empowerment is a powerful subject. As a woman, mother of three, wife, small business owner and entrepreneur, women achieving their maximum and reaching new heights is a subject that I’m passionate about (as I imagine many women are!).

Looking at women’s empowerment is an exciting adventure into the progress that we’ve made over time.  In Israel, these advances can be seen in a wide variety of fields: the army, the business and hi-tech worlds, government, academics, and in society in general. Looking at our country’s short history of just 72 years, it’s amazing to see the progress that women have made.

Facts and statistics about women in Israel 

  • Women have been serving in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) since Israel’s founding in 1948. In fact, Israel is one of the only countries in the world with mandatory drafting for women.
  • Today, approximately 39% of the army is made up of women. In the last five years, the number of combat soldiers has skyrocketed by 160%! 27% of soldiers who commit beyond the minimum service (officers, etc.) are women.
  • In 2018, the first woman was appointed as the commander of a flight squadron. In 2020, the first woman was appointed as commander of an artillery unit.
  • In the current Knesset (Israeli parliament), there are 30 women out of 120 (25%). The record number of women in any government was 37 (2015-2019). Until the mid 1990s, the number of women in the Knesset was much lower (9-12 typically).
  • Golda Meir was the first (and only) female Israeli Prime Minister. Today, Israeli has a female chief justice of the Supreme Court, Esther Haiut.
  • Einat Kalisch-Rotem is the first woman to serve as the mayor of one of the 3 biggest cities in Israel (Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa). She has been serving as the mayor of Haifa since 2018.
  • The percentage of working women in Israel is one of the highest in OCED countries.
  • In 2018, there was a 9% increase in Israeli women becoming self-employed.
  • Women make up 3 of the 5 CEOs of the largest banks in Israel.
  • More women get academic degrees in Israel than men. In 2017, 58% of bachelor’s degrees, 63% of master’s degrees, and 53% of PhDs were awarded to women.
  • 70% of those fired or put on unpaid leave during COVID-19 have been women. In general, women are considered the major victims of the pandemic in Israel.
  • The salary gap in Israel is large and stands at approximately 30% lower. Israel is also one of the only OCED countries with an official difference in retirement age between men and women, with no plans to implement a change in this policy.
  • Israeli women and girls look up to the Israeli women who are changing the world through their work: Gal Gadot, Bar Rafaeli, Neta Barzilai (winner of the 2018 Eurovision), Yarden Gerbi (winner of the bronze medal in Judo in the 2016 Olympics) and so many more.

Domestic Violence in Israel

2020 was a devastating year in Israel in regards to domestic violence.

According to the Israeli Welfare Ministry, the number of complaints regarding violence at home has increased 3x since the beginning of the pandemic. In 2020, 25 women were murdered in Israel, 13 of them by their spouses or significant others. One of the victims was Maya Wisniak, whose artwork is featured in this month’s women’s empowerment box with proceeds going to non-profits supporting domestic violence work.

Speaking about women’s empowerment doesn’t feel right if we don’t take a look at the weaker parts of our society. One shining example of an Israeli hero and inspiration is Shira Isakov, whose story has captured the hearts of all Israelis. Shira was brutally beaten by her husband on Erev Rosh Hashana 2020, in front of her toddler, and miraculously survived, in large parts thanks to the heroic efforts of her neighbor. Her story was in the headlines including her attacker’s trial, bringing light to the horrors of domestic violence. In January 2021, Shira’s story was highlighted on the main Israeli TV network, showing a courageous woman, who went through a nightmare and who is now ready to make the world a better, and most importantly safer, place.

Many non-profits are aiming to address this critical issue including the Maya Wisniak Memorial Project, dedicated to remembering Maya through the sale of her artwork in various ways (stickers, masks, jewelry, t-shirts and more).

Women in 2021 – Where are we headed?

Today, more than ever, women are breaking the glass ceiling in Israel. Women are reaching new heights in all walks of life and are a true inspiration for the next generation. Personally, it’s exciting to see and I’m proud to be an Israeli woman entrepreneur.

There’s still plenty of work to do (and most likely, our work will never be done!) in various areas including that of domestic violence.

On a personal note, when I think about women’s empowerment, I think about the fact that I’ve never tried to be equal to my male counterparts. Just like I’ve never tried to be equal to other women around me. I always compare myself to myself. My goals are personal and not in comparison to others. If I don’t believe in my abilities, there’s no one in the world, male or female, that will.

I choose my battles and I know that big changes are done through many small changes along the way. And therefore, I decide which steps I’ll take and where I’m going. Israelibox is part of this journey, and my personal way to better myself, my country, and others’ connection with our land.

At the end of the day, it’s a pretty exciting time to be a woman. Don’t you think?