New forum targets high-tech jobs for haredi women

Haredi women in high-tech Photo: Darren Whiteside

Senior high-tech leaders have joined a forum founded by the Haredi Institute for Public Affairs.

The Haredi Institute for Public Affairs, together with several leading high-tech companies in Israel and prominent figures in the high-tech industry and the haredi (ultra-Orthodox Jewish) sector, today announced the founding of a high-tech forum aimed at improving integration of haredim in in the industry, particularly women. The target set by the forum is training 2,500 haredi women annually in computer science in seminaries and integrating them in the labor market. The forum wants to both improve the employment situation of haredi women and help solve the shortage of 15,000 engineers in the high-tech industry.

Members of the forum include Michael Eisenberg, managing partner in the Aleph venture capital fund; entrepreneur and investor Dov Moran; Jerusalem Global Ventures founder and managing partner Shlomo Kalish; the Start-Up Nation Central volunteer organization; Mellanox Technologies Ltd. (Nasdaq:MLNX; TASE:MLNX) founder, chairperson, president, and CEO Eyal Waldman; Broadcom VP Shlomo Markel; and Israel Growth Forum manager and Wix head of government relations Kerem Nevo.

At the forum's first meeting, which took place recently, it was decided that the first step to be taken is a reform in the study program for computer science majors in haredi seminars. The seminar study program is supervised by the Institute for Technology Training in the Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs, and Social Services, but the seminaries differ widely in this respect, and the level of studies is not uniform. The forum believes that women find it difficult to fit into the industry because the study programs are irrelevant to the high-tech industry.

In order to promote this goal, high-tech teams at the Institute for Technology Training, will cooperate with parties from the industry in mapping and defining the industry's needs and will determine the character of the syllabus to be promoted in the reform. The plan is based on a pilot by Start-Up Nation Central in which haredi women were trained for working as programmers in high tech. The forum is now working with the Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs, and Social Services; parties in the high-tech industry, and the seminaries themselves to devise a comprehensive reform of the study programs offered to haredi women.

Creating a standard certificate in training women for high tech

Currently, only 3% of high-tech employees are haredim, although haredim make up 9% of the population in Israel. There are 9,100 haredim employed in high tech, of whom 5,200 are women. 44% of the haredi women in high tech earn NIS 10,000 a month or more, and 25% of them earn NIS 8,000-10,000 a month, which is particularly high in comparison with the average wage in the haredi sector. These figures were recently presented to the Knesset Science and Technology Committee by Haredi Institute for Public Affairs vice-chairperson Nitsa (Kaliner) Kasir.

Since haredi women are the main breadwinners in households, 90% of them continue their studies in professional seminaries after high school, and their employment rate is 75%, higher than the 50% employment rate among haredi men.

8,000 haredi women a year study at professional seminaries. According to figures from the Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs, and Social Services, this number is projected to double to 16,000 within a few years. Most of the women look for training in education and welfare, but 700-800 of them undergo professional training as programmers.

"The demand for employees in high tech is so strong that we are not worried about women being hired in high-tech jobs. The challenge is to meet the industry standard - the industry will hire any qualified employees," says Haredi Institute for Public Affairs chairperson Eli Paley. "In the forum team, we are now devising tests that we call 'the industry psychometric tests.' Any training program that wants approval from the industry will have to give its students these tests during the program, not just at the end. The test is designed to become a kind of standard certificate - anyone who passes the tests will have an open path into the industry.

"In the next stage, we will map the defense industry's needs in order to adapt the studies to them. Rafael Advanced Defense Systems recently asked us to train 40 haredi women in the north according to its needs, and they undertook to hire and train them for work afterwards." In addition to mapping the industry's needs, the forum members from the high-tech industry are capable of helping to get many employees hired through their connections and the companies that they lead.

"They treated haredi women like a disadvantaged group"

Paley added, "The potential of haredi women has not been sufficiently recognized. They have been treated like as disadvantaged group and given very basic studies. There is a huge pool of talent in the sector, and we are conducting a dialogue with the industry and the Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs, and Social Services, so that they will adopt our syllabus instead of the Institute for Technology Training giving its syllabus, which is irrelevant to the industry's needs."

On the haredi side, the forum is in touch with the seminaries themselves in order to implement the reform. "The seminaries themselves have realized that they have a problem, and they are now a full partner in this process, but the motivation of the seminaries system differs from the motivation of other systems," Paley explains. "They don't necessarily want a woman to have the best career in life; they think of a woman as the main breadwinner, and realize that she can't make ends meet on NIS 6,000 a month. I believe that this forum, in cooperation with the Institute for Technology Training, will produce something like 2,500 graduates a year within 4-5 years, mainly women, who will be able to work on the high levels of the industry."

Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on January 8, 2019

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2019

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Haredi women in high-tech Photo: Darren Whiteside
Haredi women in high-tech Photo: Darren Whiteside
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