Women workers making strides in Israel

Women workers making strides in Israel

With dogged determination, and a little help from the courts, the situation of Israeli women in the work place is getting better, an Israeli NA’AMAT official said.
Masha Lubelsky, NA’AMAT representative to the World Zionist Organization Executive, and a former NA’AMAT Israel president, visited Pittsburgh this week as part of a four-city speaking tour.
In another life, though, Lubelsky served as senior advisor in Authority for the Advancement of Women from 1996-98 during the first government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
With that background, Lubelsky told The Chronicle in an interview Tuesday that the Israel’s High Court of Justice made a “revolutionary” ruling last week, determining that the Ministry of Finance must provide tax relief to working women for their expenses related to their child care.
“The Finance Ministry is not so in favor of it, but it is the ruling,” Lubelsky said. “So in the new budget they will have to take it into consideration.”
There have been other gains over the years:
With support from the state’s powerful labor unions, Israeli employers must share the costs of on-site daycare centers with the government.
Corporations must make sure women comprise 20 percent of their boards of directors.
Committees exist in the workplaces charged with looking into complaints of sexual harassment.
That last issue garnered considerable media attention in 2007 when then-Israeli President Moshe Katsav was forced to step down over allegations that he engaged in sexual misconduct with female employees. Katsav is awaiting trial on charges of rape and sexual harassment.
More than 50 percent of Israel’s women are in the workforce, Lubelsky said, quoting government statistics.
Despite moves that protect women in the workplace and afford them greater job opportunities, Lubelsky said there’s more work to do. Salaries for women continue to lag behind men; women continue to be unrepresentative in the corporate world and despite gains they have made in high-tech sector, many of those jobs have gone away as the result of the global recession.
And according to the Jerusalem Post, Israeli women, who comprise 51 percent of the country’s population, continue to lag behind many developed countries, especially those in Scandinavia, when it comes to women n government positions — this despite the fact that the current leader of the opposition, Kadima’s Tzipi Livni, is a woman.
Yet she is proud of the gains women have made in Israel, noting that many women were even among the founding fathers — and mothers.
A former Knesset member with the Labor Party, Lubelsky well remembers her stint as an advisor for women’s issues in Netanyahu’s first government, and she predicts the Likud prime minister will consider women’s rights issues in this current government as well.
She noted that during his first government, Netanyahu urged religious women, who might otherwise have stayed at home, to enter the workforce.
“I think he understands the power of women and the contribution women bring to the labor market,” Lubelsky said.

(Lee Chottiner can be reached at leec@thejewishchroicle.net.)

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