In March, a unique business delegation from Gibraltar visited Israel on a trade-mission organised by the Gibraltar-Israel Chamber of Commerce. Led by Ayelet Mamo Shay, Chairwoman of Gibrael Chamber, the delegation comprised of leading business women, including the only female Minister in Government – the Hon. Minister Samantha Sacramento. The delegation comprised delegates from the finance sector including from Bank J. Safra Sarasin, Octopus International, Atlantic Financial Group, EY, and Hassans Law Firm, along with ladies from the retail sector (Beher Ltd), Women in Business Association, and from the Government of Gibraltar’s Ministry of Equality. 

Celebrating International Women’s Day, the objectives of the delegation were to explore innovations in a variety of sectors, network with high-calibre businesswomen in Israel in view of developing mutual business opportunities, and explore the reasons behind Israel’s highly entrepreneurial culture.

Today, women play leading roles in all areas of Israeli life, including politics, law, art, the high-tech industry, and more. To name some examples, 51% of all Israeli judges are female including current Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, 60% of all Post-Graduate students in Israel are women, and more than 100,000 women work in Israel’s vibrant HiTech sector. When it comes to the financial sector, people can only look on in wonder at the number of women at the top in Israel. The Governor of the Bank of Israel, the Deputy Governor and the Supervisor of Banks are all women, and that’s just the start! Three of the CEOs of Israel’s big five banks are women. Many of the top government regulatory positions are also in the hands of women including Accountant-General, Israel Antitrust Authority Head and the Supervisors of the Capital Market, Insurance and Savings.

One of the reasons for the large number of women in top roles is that women tend to bring in more women. Although women are seen as more competitive and hostile towards each other, the reality is that women in senior positions lean more towards hiring talented and highly capable women for key posts. Another reason, and indeed one of the keys to Israel’s tech success, is the compulsory military service at the age of 18 for both men and women, which teaches young people discipline, team work, and leadership and gives them a practical path to professional development.

The private sector in Israel is also starting to embrace corrective practices that promote gender equality and foster entrepreneurship amongst women. A good example of such practice was discussed with the delegation in their meeting with Mrs Aliza Lavie MP, and Ms Kira Radinsky- director of data science of eBay. Ms Radinsky has been recognized by Forbes Magazine as one of the Rising Stars of Enterprise Technology, voted amongst Forbes 30 under 30 after recently selling her predictive data-mining business for $40 million. eBay Israel currently allows male employees to take up to 15 weeks paid paternity leave following the birth of a child, same as the maternity leave that women are entitled to by law. This guarantees that as an employer, eBay would have no preference for hiring men over women because of the ‘fear’ of absence following child birth. It also enhances equality and encourages men to take a more active role in family life following child birth, rather than being occupied at work.

The delegates visited Israel’s three biggest cities, namely Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Haifa, along with HiTech parks in the cities of Netanya and Hertzliya. In Tel Aviv, delegates met with a panel of leading business women, hosted by Anna Moshe, Senior Partner at the leading law firm Pearl Cohen, followed by a visit to KPMG Tel Aviv where they received an inspiring talk by Ms Jumber at the innovative WalkMe software company, who started her career in the firm as a cleaner and climbed her way up to become part of the senior management team. The delegation then visited the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange and received a guided tour of the Exchange’s Innovation Centre where they learnt about the initiative of Taglit (Discovery) organisation on bringing each year, tens of thousands of Jewish teenagers from all over the world to Israel, to experience first-hand, the Israeli innovations. Another inspiring talk was given to the delegation by Ms Yona Bartal, General Manager of the office of the late Shimon Peres – former President of Israel – who spoke about the activities run by the Peres Centre for Peace, which promotes innovation and entrepreneurship to foster better relations between Jews, Muslims and Christians in Israel.

In the capital Jerusalem, the delegation visited the Israeli Foreign Ministry and then the Israeli Parliament (Knesset) building where they met with a Ms Meirav Ben-Ari MP and heard about Israel’s first woman Prime Minister, Golda Meir, and about the involvement of women in current Israeli political life. Visiting the famous Tower of David historical site, overlooking the Old City, the delegation heard from Mrs Eilat Lieber (Director) about the immense work which has been done to house Israel’s newest Innovation Centre, specialising in Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality technologies within such historical citadel. The ladies also met start-ups led by women at OurCrowd – a leading equity crowdfunding platform, where they heard about alternative methods of raising funds for small businesses.

The third day saw the delegation travelling up north to Haifa – Israel’s 3rd largest city and home to the biggest HiTech park in Israel, home to Research & Development centres of many of the world’s top tech companies, including Apple, Google, Amazon, Yahoo, Intel, Philips and more. Having such top companies in Haifa has helped the city in attracting a younger workforce who otherwise would have been lured to move to the commercial hub of Tel Aviv and its hinterlands. The delegation was hosted by Or Shahaf, CEO of the Haifa Economic Corporation which included a panel of successful women from top HiTech companies and were then treated to lunch at the Haifa City Hall, led by Deputy-Mayor Mrs. Hedva Almog. It was heart-warming to see the Gibraltar flag flying on top of the Haifa City Hall. The day ended with a networking event with many women entrepreneurs at the Spaces Co-working Hub in Hertzliya, were a number of inspiring talks by successful business women were given.

A common theme which was mentioned by numerous successful business women and men has been the general acceptance in the Israeli business world, that some failure is a necessary component to becoming successful. Indeed, it has now become popular in Israel to hold meetups where start-up entrepreneurs talk about the mistakes they’ve made and the lessons they learned from them.

Commenting on the visit, Ayelet said: “I have no doubt that this delegation has been an eye-opener to all the powerful women who participated, but if there is one thing I would like them to take from this experience, is the tolerance for failure and learning from one’s mistakes in order to try again, and not give up until success has been achieved. If we can teach this lesson to both the young generation in Gibraltar and to their parents too, we may have unlocked one of the secrets to promoting a more enterprising culture in Gibraltar.”