How Israeli Women Are Making Political Strides on National and Local Levels
WePower has a pretty clear goal: equal representation in Israeli political life by the year 2030. Founded in 2000, the non-partisan Israeli NGO trains women of all backgrounds and political affiliations to run for local and national office. Moment speaks with WePower CEO Mazal Shaul.
What is the problem WePower is trying to address?
Currently in Israel, women represent 13 percent (or 420 out of about 3,600) city council members, only 2 percent (or 6 out of 257) mayors and 27.5 percent of Knesset members. Although 65 percent of civil servants are women, only 12 percent are in executive positions, and 0 percent are in senior management positions in government companies. Our goal is 50 percent in all arenas.
How do you find women to work with?
We approach women that are already active in municipalities, except they are not in politics. Often, they say that they don’t do politics even though they do. They are active in the community in all kinds of things: in the school, in the security system, the municipality.
Do you engage with national politics? What is the difference between local and national politics?
I don’t know if national politics is easier or not. I will say that we have the same symptoms. The symptoms are that the women don’t want to go into politics because politics is dirty, politics is manly. Women believe that they can only go into politics if they “know,” if they are experts—if they don’t know they will not go. We created a “college for politics” program to give tools to women to understand how to “do politics”—how to do a campaign, how to run, how to do the networking, all the legal and the financial issues. We give them the tools, and we give them the support, and we are creating peer groups.
Do religious parties play a role? How will you reach them?
To tell you the truth, the difficulties in the Arab and religious arenas are very bad. Women that run or have run in the past can experience violence directed at them. People don’t talk to them. They pushed them away from society. This is a very difficult situation. There we are very, very behind. We are doing changes step by step, little by little, but it’s a very small, small, small step.
What do you think is possible in upcoming national elections?
I think we will find more women leading lists. I think that we will find more women running for mayoral positions. It’s very difficult for me to evaluate at this time.
Do you think women make better leaders overall?
Yes, definitely. And, also, statistics and research show that women are more faithful to the work. They are getting into more details. They can have the strategic and realistic, holistic view on things. They are more fair. They are more businesslike. They are very co-operational. They will not get into ego issues. Research shows that when women are leading or managing, the results are better by more than 10 percent.
Do you think that if there were women leaders, either leading Israel or the PA, there would be more progress and peace?
Definitely, because we know that the type of conversation that women have is more patient, it’s more professional. It’s less emotional. We say women are more emotional, but actually when they get into the leadership positions, they are less emotional. So I believe it can influence the peace process.