Shatil and a number of women’s organizations have put women’s dignity on the national agenda, prodding the government to take numerous steps to ensure greater equality and wellbeing of women in the workplace.
The Equality and Dignity in the Workplace Project, a three-year initiative involving SHATIL in partnership with a broad range of Israeli women’s organizations including Israel Women’s Network, Mahut Center, Tmura, Kayan and the Association of Rape Crisis Centers, brought together government, the private sector and civil society to safeguard the equality and dignity of women in the workplace, with an emphasis on combating sexual harassment, equalizing wages, and promoting economic opportunities for marginalized women.
Among the project’s many significant achievements are ones that ensure that working women are less vulnerable to sexual harassment at work. Project activists persuaded the Ministry of Industry, Trade and labor to commission a much-needed comprehensive survey to assess the scope and economic costs of sexual harassment in the workplace and to institutionalize preventive workshops in assorted government and municipal agencies. The survey’s finding that costs to the economy are close to one billion shekels a year in lost productivity was a significant incentive for the government to make serious efforts toward addressing this problem.
The project’s campaign vis a vis the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor to reward NGOs that work with employers to promote norms that create a working environment safe from sexual harassment – for instance through the drafting of an ethical code or covenant in which the employer assumes responsibilities beyond those mandated by the law — has achieved more than it set out to. The Ministry recently decided to offer NGOs up to 100,000 NIS each to help employers create such voluntary codes relating not only to sexual harassment but to workers’ rights in general, such as the rights of subcontracted workers, diversity and hiring practices relating to the Arab minority and other populations, combating age discrimination and more.
“Our work to promote equality of women in the workplace has had a ripple effect,” said SHATIL project coordinator, Tamar Adelstein-Zekbach. “The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Labor’s decision can promote the rights of many marginalized workers in Israel.”
Among the projects other notable achievements:
- Shining a spotlight on neglected issues affecting Israel’s most vulnerable women such as underpaid women in the care professions, through the creation and empowerment of a Care Professions Forum, recruiting policymakers and other partners to improve their working conditions. A growing number of MKs are now committed to advancing legislation protecting the rights of women in the care professions. Four of them from across the political spectrum sponsored a Knesset conference on the issue, giving the women crucial access to policy-makers and government bodies.
- Placing the issue of persistent pay gaps between men and women on the public agenda and compelling the Ministry of Finance to produce for the first time detailed data on gender breakdowns on the earnings of close to one million workers in the public sector. These data will help design more effective civil society and government efforts to combat and monitor the phenomenon.
- Initiating and fuelling efforts to pass legislation that will reduce discrimination and increase equality for women, including legislation that would give preference to small, local businesses in providing school lunches. If passed, thousands of employment and economic opportunities will open up, mostly for women.
- Setting in motion steps toward the establishment of seven women’s food cooperatives in low socio-economic areas around the country that will provide enhanced employment opportunities to socially disenfranchised women
- Influecing the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission to make the issue of gender-based wage gaps one of its three strategic goals for the years 2012-13. This decision has wide-ranging implications and will result in government-initiated activities to collect data on wage gaps from public and private employers, training and guidance of employers, litigation, public awareness campaigns, and examination of the need for further legislation.
- Persuading the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor to print sexual harassment regulations on the back of the monthly pay slip of all 950,000 employees in the public sector
The project’s work received widespread coverage in the Israeli media, including television, radio, the press and the internet, all of which have contributed to increased awareness to the rights of women in the workplace.