The inclusion of haredim (ultra-Orthodox Jews) in high tech has been making headlines recently. This measure is particularly difficulty when women are involved. Last week, Google opened a special development training course for haredi women at its campus in Tel Aviv.
Moshe Friedman, a founding partners in Kama Tech, a non-profit organization working for the inclusion of haredim in high-tech, which initiated the plan, said, "In the course of our activity, I noticed that there was a huge pool of 10,000 haredi women with training in software, but only 4,000 of them were actually working in the field."
He explained that there were a number of reasons for this. "On the one hand, some of them don't necessary have formal higher education. They studied at haredi women's seminaries, not at the Technion Israel Institute of Technology, so employers don’t consider hiring them. In addition, some of them want to work only in a haredi environment, and employers usually aren't prepared for this. The result is that outsourcing companies are creating a captive audience and paying them very low wages."
"Globes": Do they get paid more in secular companies?
Friedman: "Absolutely. I know a woman who worked at an outsourcing company and earned NIS 5,000 a month in web development. One day, a customer talked to her and offered her three times as much for the same work. These company's charge enormous middleman fees. It's a difficult situation, because these companies have advantages, and they're important for us. No one stops a haredi woman from working outside, for example at Google, but it's necessary to be careful about exploitation. Another important point is that many women do want to work in secular companies, but because haredi women are considered inferior workers, they are paid less even outside."
Friedman asked the Google campus for cooperation and training in one of the hottest spots in the market: apps development. "Companies in Israel are battling for this role," Friedman says, "and training at Google's campus will give these women the right label."
Google Campus Tel Aviv program manager Michael Waltner Levy says, "When Kama Tech told us that they wanted to promote apps development for haredi women, because they had previous concentrated on men, I immediately thought about the calls I get every day complaining about a shortage of developers. I realized that this was a chance to kill two birds with one stone: to help both startups and the haredi sector. As a company, Google likes having a lot of partners, and so we got to work. We recruited Android for Academics and Elevation Academy, and even at the beginning, we are surprised at flood of queries we got.
"I thought only 50 would come. I was astounded when 100 came, and when we passed the 500 mark, I was in shock. This is the plan with the highest number of requests for the past three and half years."
Friedman: "All we did was put a simple notice on Facebook. There are only a few haredi women on Facebook, but the news about the course spread by word of mouth. Within three days, 700 haredi women had registered. It was madness. I think that a total of 1,000 women called us, which only proves the need. We eventually had to select only 16 for the first course."
The course is fully paid for by Google, which in addition to the place and professional supervision, also provides tutors in cooperation with Elevation Academy and Android for Academics.
"Google engineers also helped us at the selection stage. The course takes four months, with some of it taking place on the campus and some online. There was a problem, because not all the participants had Internet at home, but we found a solution for that, too," Friedman says.
In addition to professional training, the course also includes a meeting with women entrepreneurs and women senior executives in the industry for the purpose of providing inspiration. "Sometimes that's exactly what's missing," Friedman explains, "They can also answer questions that bother the women, such as how to combine managing a home with a career. Furthermore, we also want them to get acquainted with the large companies and the startups during the course, so that they can fit in there later. In four more months, we'll hold a main pitch at Google, a demo day, at which the projects will be presented."
Friedman says, "Employers are already calling us now. There is a great demand for apps developers, and they know that these women have been selected from hundreds of applicants."
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on April 3, 2016
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