Who says technology and tradition can’t coexist?
(Original article by Jaclyn Trop, and appeared on Fortune.com on March 2, 2016)
For women living in Israel’s handful of ultra-religious communities, career options are limited. Following the traditional path means marrying young and supporting large families. With little connection to people outside their community and scant knowledge of the Internet, Orthodox Jewish women have traditionally worked as teachers and secretaries.
But tech companies are beginning to offer them options more lucrative than childcare and administrative work. From industry giants like Cisco and Intel to boutique firms, Israel’s tech players are starting to offer amenities such as single-sex offices, kosher food and flexible hours that cater to stringent Haredi guidelines.
“At Cisco, we focus a lot on inclusion and collaboration and value diversity,” says Shani Ginat, human resources manager at Cisco’s Jerusalem office. The company is one of Israel’s largest employers of Haredi women and men, whom it employs in roles ranging from project management to software engineering. “Our hiring strategy is to bring variety of people from different cultures, gender and backgrounds. This way, we build more diverse teams, bring new way of thinking into the company and promote creativity and innovation,” she explains.
Cisco offers flexible hours, part-time positions and kosher food to cater to Haredi employees. Outside of work, the company leverages its cultural diversity through activities such as biblical club, where religious and secular employees gather to learn and discuss Torah portions together from a variety of historical, philosophical and religious points of view, Ginat says.
Integrating tradition and technology is not always smooth, however. Not all companies can offer the flexibility Haredi women need to care for their families, and integrating Haredi workers can be challenging. “Most of the Haredi women have a lot of kids so long hours are difficult for them,” says Moshe Friedman, co-founder of KamaTech, a non-profit that helps place Haredi men and women at Israeli offices of established companies such as Google and Microsoft. “Most Haredi women don’t want to work in a secular environment, and secular companies don’t always have an open mind to recruit Haredi women,” he adds.
Still, KamaTech has managed to place more than 100 Haredi women in jobs at tech companies throughout Israel. “We want to create the role model and the success stories for those who are interested in this direction and pave the way for them,” Friedman said.