via Creative Commons
Whenever I tell my thirteen year old daughter Shira about an article I’m writing or a presentation I’m giving, the first thing she asks me is “Will you be paid?” This simple question illustrates that female Jewish academics are still the “second sex” in the American University system.
In his plenary address at the annual Association for Jewish Studies conference December 14th, AJS president and noted Brandeis historian, Jonathan D. Sarna said “Women have not yet achieved anything like equality in terms of salaries.” His speech synthesized data from a yet-to-be-released survey of AJS members sponsored by the American Academy of Jewish research and conducted by Steven M. Cohen of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. The sample had 1,790 respondents representing a 60 percent response rate out of a total sample of 3,026 members with analysis limited to the 1,353 respondents living in the US or Canada.
The other day I got a postcard. It was from a chapter of a Jewish women’s organization I fleetingly belonged to, located in another time zone. The postcard was unusual in that it was requesting donations of clothes, rather than the usual appeal for cash. But the fact that it showed up in my mailbox was not.
This organization, whose philosophy and goals I entirely agree with, has been regularly asking me for money for about six years. The fact that I have never made a donation, except for when I initially joined, does not deter them. Nor does the fact that I have moved about five times since then. More consistently than reminder cards from the dentist or perky updates from my Alma Mater, these donation-seeking letters have followed me everywhere.
And every time I get one of them, or one of the letters or emails from all the other Jewish organizations whose missions I also thoroughly want to succeed but cannot afford to subsidize, I remember that as long as I have no money to give, most Jewish non-profits will find me perfectly useless.
Perhaps it serves me right for signing up for all of those email lists, or for buying a few trees, or for joining that organization years ago. I don’t usually join things. But at the time I’d just moved to a new city where I didn’t know a soul, so I decided I’d do it the acceptable way for once. I’d volunteer my time for a cause I believed in, and I’d try to make friends.
So I sent the organization $50, I think — more than I could spare, but I figured it was a worthwhile investment. The organization turned out to offer neither volunteering nor friend-making opportunities. All the members clearly knew each other already, and the events, many held in private homes, were organized in groups. You didn’t go stuff envelopes and get to know strangers; you reserved a table (with all your friends) at a benefit dinner. I never went to any of them.
The list of top earners in Israel’s publicly traded companies was published last week by Yediot Aharanot’s Mamon magazine. There is only one woman on the list: Stella Handler.
She’s the director of the cable network Hot, and Handler stands out for her gender, with a salary of 14.82 million NIS annually (approximately $4 million). That’s a lot of money, to be sure, but it’s also 30% less than the top guy on the list, mall-magnate David Azrieli, who makes the equivalent of $5.7 million a year.
According to the World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap Index, on which Israel ranks 55th in the world, Israel has a ratio of 88:100 women to men in the economy.
Today Israeli women are getting undergraduate educations at rates on par with their male counterparts. Yet they are not making it to the top of the economy. The question is what is happening inside companies and organizations? Why are women failing to thrive?
There are two ways to address this question. One places the onus on women, and one places onus on surrounding cultures.
The photos of 14 men are plastered across the cover of last week’s finance supplement of Yediot Aharonot. What makes this particularly outrageous is the context: a story on the salaries of senior managers in Israel’s business sector. Apparently there is not a single woman in Israel’s business community making a salary worth reporting about.
The issue at hand is a legislative effort currently underway to correct socioeconomic inequalities by capping top salaries in publicly traded companies. Last week, Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman, who is heading the committee debating the issue, announced that the government will not intervene in salary decisions, because “[i]ntervening can cause more harm than good”. And so, men such as Haim Katzman, chairman of Gazit Globe, who made 18.8 million NIS ($5.2 million) in 2009; Eli Yunis, CEO of Mizrahi Tfahot, who made 18.6 million NIS ($5.1 million), and Shlomo Rodev, chairman of Bezeq, who made 11.74 million NIS ($3.26 million), will continue to get what they want and believe that they deserve, without any government action. It’s like the Wild West over here — if you can get it, grab it, and there’s nobody to stop you. At least if you’re a man.
The White House released a comprehensive report today on the state of women in America, the first report of its kind in nearly 50 years. The information in the report isn’t new, but rather a compilation of a wide-range of studies that together provide an aerial view of the progress, and lack of progress, made by women over the past five decades.
I broke it down into good news and bad news. I am starting with the good. (Note: Good news, to me, means an increase in life choices and opportunities available to women. I am not, for example, saying fewer children is good news; but that more women feel that they can choose whether or not to have children is definitely a positive change.)
Here’s the good news: