It’s 2018 and we still haven’t crossed the equality gap when it comes to supporting and funding women-led and founded ventures. We still have a ways to go, as even the tech giants who have claimed to be the vanguards of diversity are struggling with issues around gender. As the Startup Nation, a “Western” country (and not comparing the standards of basic women employment of its neighbors), the Israeli tech ecosystem, and the country at large have created a favorable environment for women entrepreneurs and investors. At Clearview Partners we believe gender equality is not just the ethical thing to do but that it makes good business sense to have as many backgrounds and opinions around the table.
The numbers don’t lie, as reported by Fortune in the US (and particularly Silicon Valley) “only 2% of venture funding went to female founders in 2017, and just 8% of partners at the top venture capital firms are women”. In the US and globally there are a number of reasons that have contributed to this environment. Looking to Israel, the country has had for many years presented the image of a macho militaristic driven culture where men’s achievements have been showcased (particularly in the military). The reality however, is far from the truth.
There are a number of factors that have lead to the growth of the female tech ecosystem, such as Israel’s roots in a socialist egalitarian society. While there has been a strong focus in Western culture (particularly the United States) for the male in the family to be the breadwinner, Israel has had more liberal gender roles among it’s skilled workforce. There are many factors at play as Israeli society includes communities such the ultra-Orthodox and Israeli Arabs that have traditionally had less gender equality, and statistically, the struggle still continues for gender equality.
In order to build a successful tech startup (particularly in such a deep tech focused country like Israel) you need talented engineers and programmers. Classic engineering programs are not known for their abundance of women that churn out engineers globally. The IDF, has been Israel’s “secret weapon” in helping level the playing field. The army, particularly the amount of women in technical roles such as intelligence, the air force, and navy, as well as exposure (under significant pressure) in understanding and utilizing new technologies has created an army of technical women entrepreneurs.
In the United States there are a number of women entrepreneur initiatives that work to build community and support entrepreneurs (and the number is growing and going global). Israeli founded initiatives such as she codes is a program with the stated goal of achieving equality between the number of female and male programmers. Started by serial entrepreneur Ruth Polachekthis organization has over 30 branches all across Israel; the success of this program has led the Israeli government to invest in expanding it. Like many successful organizations it is a principle driven organization following the core ideas of Believing in Yourself, Perseverance, and Community. The organization’s work starts from high school all the way to seasoned programmers who are looking to improve their skills and to take their skills to the next level.
When German Chancellor Angela Merkel posed in a picture featuring only Israeli men in business (and politics) last month the outrage on the Internet was palpable. How could Israel, a country that had progressed so far when it comes to women’s equality showcase a pic of the chancellor with only men? WeAct’s founder Darya Shaked sprung into action, and gathered a group of Israel’s most notable female entrepreneurs to counter the picture with their own picture.
All that is part of WeAct’s mission in acting as the bridge, between Israeli women entrepreneurs and Silicon Valley. There are major cultural differences in working in the Bay Area, particularly for women, that WeAct looks to address. Relationships matter everywhere, particularly in Silicon Valley where success and failure can rely on reaching the right companies and investors. WeAct helps facilitate those relationships and understanding thru their missions to the Bay Area.
Women-led ventures are incredibly important, not just for the growth of Israel but of the global ecosystem and Israel is taking the lead when it comes to helping support women entrepreneurs. Join us at Clearview Partners as we feature other important groups creating transformational change in the Israeli ecosystem.
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The Clearview Team