By Ruth Sinai, Haaretz Correspondent

Women in Israel are considerably more educated than men and hold more than half of all academic degrees, but they are paid less, according to a report on the social status of women to be reviewed by the Knesset next week.

The media shares the blame because it portrays women as no more than sex objects, the report says.

It says women are fired more often and their work is scrutinized more carefully than that of their male counterparts, and they are represented less in the media, positions of power and business.

“For decision-makers, women are still invisible in many areas,” said Rina Bar-Tal, chair of the Israel Women’s Network, after reviewing the new report. “Over the years, they have been subjected to sexist discrimination, and systematically barred from power. For all their achievements and struggles, they are still a long way from reaching equality.”

The report will be presented Monday to the Knesset Committee on the Status of Women, headed by MK Gideon Sa’ar.

The report, whose scope covers almost all aspects of life, includes one finding which Bar-Tal finds especially worrisome. “The [economic] growth about which the establishment boasts seems to have passed over the female population. The current boom in the Israeli market benefits mostly the men of the middle and high rungs of society,” Bar-Tal said.

Tal Tamir, who edited the report, says that data resources on the status of women are scarce. Despite this, the study is based on information from varied sources, and lists various factors which influence the lives of women in different spheres of life.

For example, Israel is an international power when it comes to treating infertility in women. However, the Israeli tax authorities do not recognize the services of nannies and babysitters as tax deductible. Also, pregnant women and mothers of small children are fired more often than men, and their promotion is slower.

Only 26 percent of women are entitled to pension payments, as opposed to 52 percent of men. Women’s wages are about 30 percent lower than those of men, and women constitute 60 percent of minimum-wage workers. They also receive a majority of government benefits, and 65 percent of income-support recipients. Additionally, women make up 51 percent of all recipients of unemployment payments.

Nearly 40 percent of all female workers are employed part-time, as opposed to only 20 percent of men. But only 16 percent of female part-time employees cite caring for their children as a reason for not working full-time. Unemployment among women is 9.5 percent, and 8.5 percent among men. Among Arabs in Israel, female unemployment accounts for 15 percent of all unemployment. “It appears that after women conclude their role as child bearers, they are abandoned by the system,” the report reads.

In the Israel Defense Forces Women too are far from equal. They constitute only one-third of conscripts, 18 percent of non-commissioned officers, and 26 percent of officers. They represent a fraction of senior officers: only 10 percent of all lieutenant-colonels, and less than that in the higher ranks. One of the reasons for this that combat duty is regarded as a prerequisite for promotion, whether or not operational experience is relevant to the promotion of candidates, according to the report.

The situation is bleaker still in terms of the political representation of women, and the report states that this has deteriorated in recent years. Female lawmakers make up only 14 percent of Knesset members, putting Israel in 78th place worldwide in terms of women in parliament.

The female representation in the cabinet is only 7 percent. Most female politicians hail from the more affluent central region of Israel. Only 12 percent of all local council members are women, and only 10 women have ever presided as local council heads in the country’s 59 years of existence.

In the business sector, women’s representation can be measured according to how many of them are on company boards. They constitute about 30 percent of all board members at state-owned firms. This reflects a decline since 2000, when the number was 38 percent. At publicly traded companies, women make up no more than 15 percent of board members.

The representation of women in the media has remained the same in the past 10 years – only 20 percent of people appearing in the media – and the portrayal of women as sex objects there is twice that of men. “As long as the media takes part in instilling the impression that women are sex objects devoid of pertinence to decision-making in the public sphere, their education and accomplishments will not translate into political and economic power,” the report concludes.


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