Research finds Israeli high tech discourages women

Dina Fein-Kushnir

When an organization meets parents half-way, women employees are more satisfied.

The high-tech industry in Israel has been prospering in recent years. Despite their proportion in the population, however, it appears that women have remained somewhat outside this game. According to Central Bureau of Statistics figures, only 34% of high-tech workers in Israel are women, and in the engineering and technology professions the proportion of women is an even lower 23%.

The problem is worse among the women studying these professions. A report by the Ministry of Science, Space, and Technology published last week indicated that the proportion of women students in engineering, mathematics, statistics, and computer sciences was 25-31%. In other words, the potential exists, but someone has to see that it is used. In order to do this, an effort is being made to persuade girls, teenagers, and women to study technological subjects on the one hand, and to include women in the technological and high-tech labor market on the other.

A study among 114 women engineers in the local high-tech industry by Dina Fein-Kushnir from the gender studies program at Ben Gurion University of the Negev under the guidance of Prof. Miki Malul and Dr. Mosi Rosenboim of the Guilford Glazer Faculty of Business and Management closely examines the factors affecting the satisfaction of women working in high tech.

"In order to increase the proportion of women in industry, it is necessary to realize what difficulties women face," Fein-Kushnir said in explaining her decision to conduct the academic study. What are the factors with the most influence on the satisfaction of women high-tech workers in Israel? The first is the degree of excellence, which takes into account the worker's level of interest in her job in the organization, her evaluation by her superiors, her feeling of involvement in the organization, and enjoyment of the tasks she performs.

Second on the list of influential factors is the degree to which the organization is supportive of family. This refers to organizations that encourage mothers and fathers to integrate family and work in the optimal way. "We have seen that when the organization meets parents halfway, the satisfaction of the women being questioned rises significantly," Fein-Kushnir says.

The study examined to what extent organizations where the women questioned in the survey work adopt pro-family practices, and found that this was done to a medium-to-high extent.

Picking up the children from kindergarten

One of the most significant practices that the organizations are adopting is the possibility of allowing employees to work from home when one of their children is ill. The study also shows that 36% of the participants said that allowing a working parent to leave work before 4 PM to pick up the children was very important to extremely important.

The third and last factor affecting satisfaction at work is the degree of hostility and atmosphere unpleasant for women requiring women to become callused or adopt male behavior in order to gain promotion, as indicated by the study. A lower level of hostility means more job satisfaction.

Fein-Kushnir also examined the factors affecting women's decision to leave their job, and even the entire high-tech sector. 42% of the women said that the length of time traveling from home to work has a negative influence on their satisfaction, with their average daily journey taking 1.69 hours. This figure does not necessarily indicate a need for better transportation infrastructure; according to Fein-Kushnir, it indicates a need to establish high-tech centers in outlying areas. 40% of the survey respondents cited promotion within the organization as an influential factor that could cause them to leave the organization or the entire field. 69% of the women felt a difference between their rate of promotion and that of their male colleagues in the high-tech company.

29% said that the number of work hours played a role; if the worker feels that she works more hours than she wants to, she will feel a greater urge to leave the high-tech sector.

In the bottom line, Fein-Kushnir says, "The survey results are likely to be useful to organizations in determining their policy on recruiting women employees and retaining them. Organizations wishing to retain female staff should assimilate pro-family practices in their organization in a way that does not block women's development, and make sure that the worker's fields of interest match her job." She adds, "Identifying the causes of a high degree of satisfaction and the causes making an employee leave will enable an organization to formulate a more effective policy for retaining women and increasing their satisfaction."

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on July 21, 2015

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2015

Dina Fein-Kushnir
Dina Fein-Kushnir
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