By Shiri Dover Globes, Tel Aviv, Israel.
In Israel 2015, only one in five high-tech employees are female, the sad statistic with which Jobinfo concluded the year in high-tech.
Another painful topic broached by the survey, pay.
According to Jobinfo's study, the average salary for men recruited in 2015 to a high-tech position was NIS 21,300 per month, while the average monthly salary for women stood at NIS 19,988.
It is a modest consolation: the pay gap significantly shrunk to 6.5% from last year's 32%.
However, there was much left to improve. The reasons that Israel in 2015 has an employment gap in one of its most popular sectors includes the conscious choice to avoid the field, a propensity to ask for lower compensation, and the preference of employers (male and female) for male candidates in traditional roles.
Chedva Kleinhandler is currently in the home stretch before the launch of her startup, Lean-On, which she founded to bridge these very gaps. Her motto: "Being a woman in the workplace, even in 2015, is simply too hard."
Her mobile app connects between women faced with an obstacle, challenge, or question and the relevant mentors to help in real time.
"It is not a social network, it's mentoring on demand," explained Kleinhandler. "The user writes what situation she faces and then she can enter a chat with an available mentor. The questions can be sorted by industry, location, and other variables."
Kleinhandler is an entrepreneur from a surprising background, being a haredi woman living in Bnei Brak. "I have been an entrepreneur from a young age, and I collected mentors along the way; in recent years, thanks to my experience, I suddenly became the mentor. Last May, I founded the startup following talks with Nadav Raviv, who was my client back when I was in social media and content marketing. He said it was interesting there was a need, but no one opted to solve it using technology. Later, we became partners."
Initially, Kleinhandler and Raviv held a survey, distributed online, to examine the demand for the product. "We chose 30 questions which touch on workplace dilemmas, on the people women consult, and their level of comfort with technology. We thought only a few women would volunteer and participate, but we were amazed when within 8 days more than 500 women from 56 countries responded. We had answers from Japan, Norway, Brazil, South Korea, and even Saudi Arabia."
Kleinhandler emphasizes she was not only focusing on a haredi audience but was open to everyone.
When asked how entrepreneurship integrates with her haredi sector, she answered simply: "There is no reason it should not integrate." She was more surprised at the inequality in the secular world. "When I was exposed to the secular scene, I couldn't understand how women are not all feminists. I thought 'non-feminism' only existed within the bounds of Bnei Brak."
Lean-On Kleinhandler, Raviv, Gal Maoz, and Daina Reed currently operates out of the WNM hub in the Tel Aviv port. "We are in the testing phase, just starting to look for investors, and we'll soon try pilot and launch in New York," she said.
Last week, the Lean-On team tried an eccentric move to raise awareness of their product. "We sent Max Chan Zuckerberg, Mark and Priscilla Zuckerberg's new daughter, a gift and a letter. In the package, the Zuckerbeg family will find a pair of knitted shoes in the color of our logo and a letter in which we tell how excited we were by her father's choice to donate 99% of his Facebook stock for charity. We told him that is what we were trying to do every day. And we appreciated his decision to do so with a company and not a foundation we also had to decide whether to open a non-profit or startup, and we chose to join the wave of social startups.
"We also wrote: 'While we all believe in advancing the human potential, we believe we must first promote the female potential, which will not only promote equality but also encourage and nourish our potential."