Israeli program nurtures women business leaders

Noya Lempert, Keren Hershcovitz, Efrat Dayagi

In Women2Women, female graduates of the IDF 8200 intelligence unit who have made it to the top mentor their successors.

A new program for advancing women in prominent positions in a range of fields, high tech chief among them, was launched last week in the SOSA ("South of Salame") space in Tel Aviv. The program, entitled "Women2Women", seeks to raise the representation of women at top decision making levels, through mentoring by those who have already made it. Twenty female graduates of the IDF's 8200 intelligence unit are being selected, to each one of whom will be assigned a mentor, also a graduate of the unit, who is already in a senior position.

The initiative for the program came from three women who formerly served in 8200. Keren Hershcovitz, Noya Lempert and Efrat Dayagi dreamt up the program and are now running it. None of the three has a technological background (Dayagi is a lawyer, Lempert is a doctoral student in clinical psychology, and Hershcovitz is studying for a masters in operations research), but they say that the growing need led them to open a designated program, fuelled by a sense of mission.

"The aim is to advance female graduates of the unit with potential for excellence," Hershcovitz explains, "This emphasis distinguishes us form other existing programs for the advancement of women. The initiative was born when we looked at the 8200 unit that we ourselves came from, and saw that 50% of those serving in it are women. This interesting statistic remains true at the initial stages of the career army as well. 8200 has a technological side of programmers and also an intelligence side. It's true that the girls tend more towards the intelligence track, but still, even when conscripts move on to become commissioned officers, the balance between men and women stays the same."

The problem, according to Hershcovitz, starts when you look further ahead. "The percentage of women among CEOs and directors plummets. We want to take the young women who are just setting out, and to make sure that they continue on the path of leadership and success. We connect them with women from the unit who have already gone a long way."

Dayagi: "The aim is to give an initial, significant push." Lempert: "We're attacking from both directions, for example at the launch evening that we held last week at which a forum of female graduates of the unit who are strongly connected to the high-tech world was launched. Although we don't come from that field, and the aim is of course to address a range of fields and of women, this forum facilitates networking in the technology area particularly."

Among the mentors who will be active in the forum are some well-known names, such as former director-general of the Ministry of Finance Yael Andorn, Kodak Israel manager Einav Aharoni-Yones, Worldwide Sales Strategy Lead at Microsoft Dana Sugarman, Amdocs Human Resources manager Karmit Shilo, and others.

Dayagi: "Although the program is aimed at a range of professions, we see a far greater need for mentoring in high-tech than in other professions."

The three women, and the mentors who are members of the forum, work completely voluntarily. And the three founders have broader aims. "Part of our vision is that the program will reach young women with potential from the population in general and not just graduates of the unit. It’s very important for us to stress this point," they say.

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on March 14, 2016

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2016

Noya Lempert, Keren Hershcovitz, Efrat Dayagi
Noya Lempert, Keren Hershcovitz, Efrat Dayagi
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