Lone Soldier Blog

Women For Change

Tags: Human Rights, Soldiers and defense, Education

By Julia Chazkel

Sitting at a roundtable discussion made up primarily of men at the Herzliya Conference in 2010, a woman leaned over to me and asked, “are we the only two women interested in missile defense systems?!” I sarcastically answered, “maybe we’re the only women who they think can wrap their minds around all this man stuff.”

We both had a good laugh and immediately took a liking to each other. She told me all about the work of Women in International Security’s (WIIS) branch in Germany and the value of their efforts for the women in their society. It became clear to me that very day how vital this could be for the women of Israel.

I immediately conferred with my good friend Lea Landman with whom I worked at the IDC Herzliya shortly after I had made Aliyah from New York. We had repeatedly discussed how Israel has a unique wealth of resource of incredible women with the capability to change the current situation based on their passion and experience gained through their army service. Having now been introduced to WIIS, we began to consider how we could make a difference in helping women find their place in the various arenas of security, politics and government activities.

We hit the ground running, thinking about what it meant to be a woman in security.

An important definition to clarify was “What is security”?
We wanted to get a personal understanding of the experience, its unique impact on women, and how this translated into professional goals of women who strived to achieve more with their training and knowledge.

WIIS Israel with Tzipi Livni

We set about interviewing the women in the field, and each story was more inspirational and enlightening than the next. After meeting with women in the professional field and the young women who wanted to be them, we began to recognize the limits of the relentless law making and advocacy efforts from “feminist” organizations. While we saw the great value and importance of their work, the reality is that real change needs to come from women themselves.

In Israel, the legalities are there: women must have equal access to jobs, women are required by law to receive the same salary as their male counterparts, and women cannot be fired for being pregnant.

Our research helped us uncover one essential thing: in spite of the massive amounts of women who have military experience and higher education, we found that it is women ourselves, in one way or another, preventing ourselves from being involved in the security sector.

Most women in the Ministry of Defense, IDF and other relevant institutions are opting out of promotions to be more involved with family life. Women often see other women in their offices as threats and sometimes compete with one another or refuse to help younger women the way their male counterparts do. Most women don’t ask for raises or promotions like the men in their places of work for many reasons, most notably, they are worried it might cost them their jobs.

These are the core issues that WIIS Israel seeks to change.

We want to show women that they CAN balance being involved in their children’s lives and have a full career by showing them female role models whom have done it themselves.

We want to encourage women to connect with other women in their field because the mutual help and community of support will have only positive results for everyone, including the departments in which they work.

Most importantly, we want to give women the tools they need to achieve leadership positions in the places they work.

As we began to create inroads to making these things possible, we focused WIIS Israel’s programming around mentoring and training programs tailored for the unique mentality of young Israeli women and the realistic dynamics of Israel’s security sector. All of our programs are based around this ideal. We connect young women to successful women in the field who help them find their first jobs and serve as a support mechanism for them as they advance in their careers.

IDC Herzliya Campus Meeting with Dr. Anat Berko

We require mid-level women taking our training courses to become mentors for young level women in a continuous effort to increase a cycle of women helping women within the security institutions. The relationships we have already established in less than 3 years off the ground, are a clear demonstration that we are meeting a need and helping Israeli women fulfill their desires for success and achievement, all the while making a difference for the future of Israel.

There are some incredible women who have built this country - from taking up arms in the Haganah and bringing this country to independence to the modern day advances women are making for Israel’s national security. We hope to encourage more young women to strive to make a difference, and we hope to see more women playing a prominent role in the debates, conferences and change-making institutions in our beloved Jewish State.

Every year we make progress and almost every woman and man we bring into the mix is excited, positive and wants to help in anyway they can. The strategic placement of women in non-traditional gender roles such as the security industry around the world is something that can change the status of women as well as global peace and security.

We are honored to be a part of this movement and we know there are great things to come. We look forward to highlighting the uniqueness of Israeli efforts for change in the security industry as a testament to Israeli core democratic values and its dedication to equality and civilization.

For this reason we are extremely grateful for our partnership with The Israel Forever Foundation which is striving to connect Diaspora Jews to Israel in a most innovative way. By sharing stories of grassroots initiatives like ours, people can learn about the unique efforts being made within Israeli society to advance the role and influence of women.

What better way to connect from a distance than by recognizing the values shared by Jews everywhere that help us appreciate the continued development of a Jewish society in the one and only Israel.

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Tags: Human Rights, Soldiers and defense, Education