Israeli Women Who Led the Way in Business
A wide array of female “firsts” in Israel have set standards, broken glass ceilings and been instrumental in helping shape the country throughout its first three-quarters of a century.
Is there another Israeli woman who is alive today who made history in some field over the past 75 years that you want to tell us about? We know there are many more female “firsts” out there! Send your suggestions with a few lines about what this woman accomplished to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Karnit Flug, the first female governor of the Bank of Israel, who served in that role from 2013 to 2018, has often said that she didn’t face discrimination as a woman during her 30 years at the country’s central bank.
Flug, 68, immigrated to Israel from Poland with her family at the age of 3. She followed in the footsteps of her economist father, Noach Flug, an Auschwitz survivor who worked for three decades in civil service, including in the Finance Ministry and as a financial adviser to the Knesset’s Finance Committee.
Raised in Jerusalem, the young Flug took her father’s public service to new heights, earning a doctorate in economics from Columbia University and working for the International Monetary Fund before returning to Israel and making her professional home at the central bank.
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“I learned the first elements of management in my parents’ home,” Flug said in a 2013 interview, citing her mother, a doctor, as well as her father. “I learned to focus on the goal, to be pragmatic….”
During her tenure, she was repeatedly ranked among the top 10 central bankers in the world by Global Finance magazine. Now the vice president of research and the William Davidson Senior Fellow for Economic Policy at the Israel Democracy Institute, Flug said that it was in her capacity as economic adviser to the government, part of her role as central bank governor, that she was able to consider policies that had different effects on men and women. She cited, for example, her push to raise the retirement age for women to ensure that they had sufficient savings once they left the workforce. The move wasn’t popular at first because it meant women had to wait longer to become eligible for a national pension.
When she left the central bank in 2018, Flug said, she “felt a little like Moses,” who didn’t make it to the Promised Land, as several of her policies had not yet been legislated. It took another three years to pass a law that raised the retirement age for women—from 62 to 65 for those born in 1970 or later.
Dina Ben Tal Ganancia: EL AL CEO
Who she is: First female CEO of the Israeli national airline, one of only a few women to head an airline worldwide.
Background: Age 48, grew up in a small farming community in the Negev, where she was her “father’s little shepherd.”
Little-known fact: Participates in Mamanet, a sports league for moms in which they play cachibol, also known as newcomb.
Recent accomplishment: In the second quarter of 2022, her first year on the job, El Al posted its first quarter of profitability since 2015, after several years of losses exacerbated by the pandemic.
Quote: “We will not lend a hand to boycotts of any kind, certainly not against the prime minister of Israel,” the EL AL CEO said in early March when several pilots refused to fly Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, to Rome on official business, as part of the ongoing protests against the ruling coalition’s planned judicial reform. “It is a great honor for us to fly the prime minister on diplomatic missions. We have always done so and will continue to do so.”
Danit Peleg: Fashion Designer
Who she is: First designer in the world to create 3D-printed ready-to-wear clothing and entrepreneur.
Background: Age 35, born in Beersheva and grew up in Reut, a town between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Now the mother of two young children, Peleg says her innovation came from her final project when she was a student at Shenkar College of Engineering, Design and Art.
Little-known fact: Her 2015 TED Talk has been translated into 40 languages.
Recent accomplishment: Collaborating with the European Union Innovation Center in Croatia to engineer a printer for creating large-scale textiles; working with Japanese corporation Mitsui & Co. and the Moon Creative Lab in Palo Alto to refine the texture of 3D-printed textiles.
Quote: “Over the years, I’ve become more empowered to see that I can make a change and push the boundaries of a completely new industry and make an impact, so that’s empowered me to be strong.”
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Jessica Steinberg is the arts and culture editor at The Times of Israel.