Family Day: A salute to wonder women
There are certain things I simply don’t get very excited about, like Family Day (Yom Hamishpacha) which is observed this Thursday in Israel. Of course, it’s very nice that my workplace is letting all the employees leave early to go spend time with their spouses and children, but for me, as a single guy without kids, it’s just another day.
The same sort of apathy strikes me when I see giant headlines in the Israeli press about well-known Orthodox rabbis calling on yeshiva students not to enlist in the IDF if they are forced to serve in mixed-gender units. My army days are far behind me, so I don’t have a horse in that race either. Or so I thought. Although I cannot place myself in the shoes of today’s young male soldiers, I can identify with a well-known fictional one: Steve Trevor.
If you saw last summer’s cinematic blockbuster Wonder Woman, starring Israel’s very own Gal Gadot in the title role, you might recall that our heroine has a male co-star, Captain Steve Trevor. He is the American pilot she rescues when his plane crashes off her island’s coast.
But Trevor doesn’t crash land on just any old island, he finds himself on the hidden island of Themyscira, home to the Amazonian warrior women, including Diana, aka Wonder Woman. He is the first man to set foot on the island. In other words, it’s “no man’s land” – literally!
As of January 1, I started a new job: head of English content at WIZO (Women’s International Zionist Organization) in Tel Aviv. Established in 1920, the organization is on the verge of celebrating its centennial. While my job is certainly interesting, what I find most intriguing is that the male-female ratio at WIZO, as you might expect, is heavily skewed.
“It’s the Rooney rule,” my brother joked when he called me a couple of weeks ago to congratulate me on my new job. In the NFL, teams are required to interview minority candidates for head coaching and senior football operation jobs. The rule, named after Dan Rooney, the former Pittsburgh Steelers owner and former chairman of the league’s diversity committee, is seen by many as a type of affirmative action, though there is no quota or preference given to minorities in the hiring of candidates. According to my brother, being a male at WIZO (also known as a “MIZO”) puts me in a very distinct minority.
While I can fully attest to the fact that I was not offered my current job based on my gender, being a man in a female-dominated workplace has really enlightened me.
Like a modern day Steve Trevor, I am in awe of the wonder women I am surrounded by and have the pleasure to work with. They may not be warriors in the literal sense, but they fight major battles daily, for the welfare of women, children, youth, and all sectors of Israeli society.
No offense to Gal Gadot, but these wonder women come in all ages, sizes, and from all backgrounds. From the chairperson of World WIZO, Prof. Rivka Lazovsky, and WIZO president Esther Mor, to all the wonderful WIZO women, both paid workers and volunteers, working for the welfare of Israelis in WIZO day care centers, schools, parents’ homes and more, everyone fights very hard for what they believe in.
As if that weren’t enough, a few weeks ago 100 wonder women from across the globe descended on WIZO’s Tel Aviv headquarters for the annual MOR (Meeting of Representatives). From Austria to Australia, from the US to South Africa, I saw firsthand how the representatives from WIZO’s federations around the world all share the same fighting spirit.
But certainly these wonder women must have some faults, right? They can’t all be superheroes, can they?
Four year ago, when I was working for Blonde 2.0, a PR company in Tel Aviv, one of my first clients was a brash Israeli by the name of Itay Adam. He was a startup founder who was determined to turn Israel’s startup work culture on its head.
“Most startups hire 20-year-old kids who are willing to work day and night at the office,” Adam told Forbes in an article in 2014. “I don’t believe in that. I’d much rather hire an older, more experienced employee to work a regular eight-hour workday and who will get more done in that time than an inexperienced 20-year-old kid would in week!”
He went on to cite the example of single mothers, explaining how they come to work at 8 a.m. sharp, make their cup of coffee, sit at their work stations and don’t get up until 3 p.m. when they have to leave to go pick up their kids. In those seven hours, they manage to get more work done than most other employees simply because they need to be more efficient with their time. Those are the types of workers Adam was looking for.
At the time, I thought Adam was all talk. I didn’t believe that such a work model existed because back then I worked very long hours with young single people.
However, I now work with many moms and single moms (which is also fitting because “Family Day” in Israel used to be just known as “Mother’s Day”) . Somehow these wonder women manage to get all their work done at the WIZO office and still pick up their kids from school in the afternoon. Yes, the pace at my new place of work is fast and intense, which is something I have yet to get used to, but everyone gets more done in less time because they simply have to.
In an interview with Refinery 29, Gal Gadot said about her Wonder Woman character, “She’s fierce, she’s proactive, she believes in herself, she believes she can do everything, and that’s a true woman to me.”
I cannot speak for all the rabbis and yeshiva students out there, but I work with women – correction, I “serve” with many wonder women – and you don’t need to use a lasso of truth on me to get me to admit I am a better man for it.
The writer is head of English content at World WIZO in Tel Aviv.