The Gender Index is an innovative tool developed by WIPS – The Center for the Advancement of Women in the Public Sphere, which serves to evaluate gender inequality in Israel across a spectrum of fields over time. The 2016 Gender Index is based on the calculation of gender inequality in Israel in twelve key domains: education, the labor market, gendered segregation of professions, poverty, power, media and culture, health, violence against women, time and family status; as well as gender inequality in the periphery and gender inequality in Arab society in Israel.
The Gender Index’s contribution lies in its systematic examination of data in a variety of spheres over several years, to provide an overall depiction of the state of gender inequality in Israel.
The Gender Index takes into account aspects of gender inequality that address issues of diversity and deep social structures of inequality, such as Arab society, gendered segregation in the workforce, and violence against women.
The Gender Index is a tool to develop public discourse and awareness regarding the varied expressions of gender inequality. Furthermore, as a monitor of the status of women in Israel, it is a powerful tool for evaluating Israeli state policies and initiatives directed at increasing gender equality and promoting social justice.
The most significant finding of the Gender Index is that the gender inequality situation in the last year of measurement (2014) is almost identical to that in the first year of measurement (2004). Despite slight fluctuations over the years, there has been no significant improvement in gender inequality in Israel for over a decade.
Two general trends can be identified in the 2016 Gender Index: from 2004 to 2007 gender inequality increased, and from 2010 to 2013 the overall incidence of gender inequality showed signs of decreasing. The decrease that occurred in recent years was particularly evident in three domains: Arab Society, Poverty, and Power. However, this decrease derived in part from a general deterioration in employment conditions for both men and women and not from an improvement in women’s situation. It should also be noted that despite this slight improvement, the depth of inequality across all domains remains high (60%), particularly in the Power, Labor Market, and Gendered Segregation of Professions domains.
These findings indicate the enormity of the ongoing challenge we face with regard to promoting equality between women and men in Israel. One of the main causes of the stability of the gender gap and the moderate, if equivocal, trend towards decreased inequality, is the depth of the gap in the Labor Market domain. The gap is both deep and stable across all the indicators in this domain: labor market participation, pay, contract workers, part-time employment and the depth of segregation by profession. Likewise, the gender gap in the Power domain is the deepest and most stable across the years, though the political representation (women in government) indicator showed a decrease in gender inequality. The only domain in which gender inequality actually decreased during the measurement period was Education: not only are there no gaps between women in men in years of study, but gender differentiation within education has shrunk over the years, i.e. women are acquiring education in more fields with a view to more successful integration in the labor market. This means that women are acquiring social capital in order to integrate into the public realm but are not managing to translate this into achievements in the labor market or narrowing the gaps in political and economic power. They are encountering structural and cultural obstacles that restrict their ability to do so.
An in-depth examination of these data: decreased inequality in Education versus stasis in Power and Labor Market, yields two principal insights: the first is that although women are investing time and effort in acquiring the tools for integration in the labor market, segregation within higher education is still deep, and this is one of the main causes of gender inequality in this domain. The second, non-contingent, insight is that we need to seek an explanation for the gender gap in the deep structure of the Labor Market, which does not take the domestic realm into account. This structure is in large part a function of the gendered distribution of roles with regard to home and family care. It negatively impacts women’s ability to achieve positions of political and economic power. Women are perceived as secondary in the labor market, trespassers in a realm that is not theirs. Hence, the responsibility should not be placed on women alone, but on society as a whole.