Despite all of the progress the world has made in the fight for gender equality, wage gaps are still a serious problem in many countries. Israel is one of those countries, and we don’t appear to be making much progress in this department.
According to the OECD survey, women who work full-time earn 78% of what their male peers made in 2015. Even at the Equality Ministry, women still earn less than men. Israel had the fourth-widest gap among 15 surveyed countries, with the average being 86%.
Belgian women earn 97% of what their male counterparts earn. In Slovenia, it’s 95%, and in New Zealand, it’s 94%.
But Israel’s gap is wider than countries that normally score at the bottom of the OECD social and economic indicators for women. In Mexico, the gap is just 17%, and in Turkey, it’s just 7%.
Some countries, like Canada, are taking a serious stance against gender wage gaps. Ontario’s “pay transparency” bill is designed to end gender wage inequality.
“The new bill would require large companies to track information regarding compensation gaps between genders, as well as other characteristics of diversity,” a local employment lawyer explains. “The companies would then be required to disclose this information to the province.”
But Israel doesn’t seem to be making much progress in narrowing the earnings gap, which the treasury says could actually boost the GDP by 7%.
Women are more educated than they were in the past. In 2014, more women completed high school than men and more Israeli women were awarded bachelor’s degrees than the OECD average. More Israeli women are joining the labor force than in many other OECD countries.
Part of the problem is that there aren’t as many female entrepreneurs in Israel. Women also aren’t advancing in their careers. Females account for just 18.1% of corporate board directors. The average for OECD countries is 20%.
Women aren’t working as much as their male counterparts, with most working less than 60 hours a week.
In the political sphere, Israeli women only account for 26.7% of the Knesset. Iceland has a nearly gender-balanced parliament. In Mexico and Finland, 45% of legislators are women.
A greater female presence in the political sphere could help propel pay transparency laws forward and make this issue more important.
Another part of the problem is that women tend to lean towards stereotypically female-centric careers, like teaching and nursing. Only a small percentage of women are studying technology, engineering and science. These are the fields that offer substantially higher pay. In Israel, the pay in these industries is nearly double the national average.
Women account for 58% of students in undergraduate programs, but less than half of them are pursuing a career in computer science or a technology-related field.
Encouraging more women to enter careers with higher salaries could help narrow the gap, but more importantly, steps need to be taken at the government level. Israel could learn from Canada in this regard. Pay transparency laws would require companies to analyze and disclose their wage gaps.