Up until a few years ago, many haredi women engaged in the education field – not necessarily due to personal matching but because it matches their lifestyle. The educational institutions gave haredi women a supportive and familiar working environment. However, in the past years, there is growing understanding that it doesn't fit everyone and that the number of teachers was excessive compared to the availabilities.
The Temech association, led by Shmuel Bloom of Agudas Yisroel of America, was founded to help haredi women in Israel find work outside the education world. In recent years, Temech has been preparing workplaces for haredi women, and the first management course for haredi women was completed several weeks ago – proof of the project's success.
Fear of unknown
"A haredi woman must overcome a gap which women from other sectors don't usually have to deal with," explains Temech Director Sheindi Baved. "After it turned out in recent years that the solution of teaching is no longer suitable – several steps were taken, led by professional training for additional routes. We launched auditing and computer engineering seminaries, and in 2004 began preparing the ground."
First of all, the conservative haredi community had to be prepared for the new reality, in which women would go out to work in new job. At the same time, the employers had to be trained to accept a workforce with unique characteristics.
"The change had to be created within the community, which was unsupportive and did not let women go out to the general market," explains Baved. "Then we had to find a suitable place for them.
"In the secular world a woman looks for work in the general market, but the haredi sector wanted to see women in suitable frameworks only. For the typical haredi women it's very important to work in a place which meets her needs, so that she isn't exposed to inappropriate things and doesn't have to give up on her values."
Baved talks about the fear of the unknown: "It was a bigger difficulty than the difficulty to adjust the work surroundings. The fear, by the way, was both on the part of the women and the employers, and we had to bridge through explanations to the employers and workers."
90% success rate
The Temech association came up with three models of workplaces for ultra-Orthodox women. The first is a strictly haredi branch – a sterile work environment set up especially for haredi women, which only includes women. They have a kosher kitchen, convenient hours and a management which understands the sector's birth rate.
An example of such a model is American company Citybox, which has set up two branches in Modiin Illit and Beitar Illit, in which more than 200 haredi women work.
Citybox, which specializes in real estate services to property in the United States, was the first project founded in Israel in this model, thanks to the company's chairman, Itche Rosenbaum, one of the founders of Temech.
A second model is a project designed for haredi women within an existing company. An example can be seen in Intel Jerusalem. The third model trains women individually. Some 1,000 women were trained for two years, and about 90% of them integrated into the labor market.
"The association's job is to locate the women and opportunities, and then bridge between what there is and what is needed," explains Baved. "We work on several levels: Knowledge, guidance, adjusting tools, providing information, training and studies.
"The management course added recently is the result of demand from the ground. When we began training haredi women, Intel Jerusalem was very interested and launched a new project with the Jerusalem Seminary. They turned to us and asked that we help them prepare the working area. They wanted to know what was permitted and what we forbidden. We held information conferences at the seminaries and helped them recruit haredi women."
Balancing between home and work
Baved says Intel has been a success story in the haredi sector for a long time.
"It began with five women and grew to 70. During this period we allowed them to create connections within the community, because we're not interested in creating dependency but opening a direct channel. Almost a year ago, the Intel Jerusalem manager had a unique request – to train women who are already working for him to become managers."
The Temech association took the project upon itself and created a first course of its kind for haredi women managers in the high-tech industry. The course combined women from three different companies who all agreed to cooperate.
The course lasted four months and ended several weeks ago. During the course, the workers learned how to manage a team, project management, people management and technical management.
"The course didn't just focus on practical managerial tools, but on sensitive issues as well," says Baved. "For example, what is the haredi woman's place, modesty and commitment to overtime when needed. A haredi woman arrived at every meeting, to bridge between what is learned and the reality of the students.
"Alongside dealing with difficulties each new worker experiences, a haredi woman must also deal with balances of house and work. It's true that women who are not haredi deal similarly too, but for the haredi woman all this is harder because we are mostly talking about women with large families, who have a great commitment to their family."
Facing the unknown
Baved discusses another unique difficulty – modesty in its haredi sense. "A haredi woman will always favor a feminine framework and will find it difficult to deal with a male boss or male team members," she says.
"She also comes from a place far from the mentality of the high-tech world, she doesn't have an aunt who already works in a high-tech company and can tell her how it works. She comes alone."
The Temech management course is a small step for high-tech companies and a huge step for haredi women.
"If a company trains women to be managers, this shows that the female workers' market is growing," says Baved. "A worker who passes the course will be in charge of a team of haredi women, and these are important sources of growth.
"We also seek to create a move of advancing women. We don't want to leave them in a workplace without a future. This course opens new horizons for them. There are haredi women who inform us in advance that they have no interest in making progress, but the needs of those who want to must be met."
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