Microsoft Broadens Help for Women Workers in Pandemic-Hit Israel

Michal Braverman-Blumenstyk is concerned her mission to get more women into the technology sector in Israel is being eroded by the pandemic.

In Israel, like elsewhere, women are bearing the brunt of the economic cost of the Covid-19 crisis, making it critical to give them extra support, the general manager of Microsoft Corp.’s Israel research and development center, said in an interview.

The U.S. technology giant is granting parents an additional 12 weeks of paid vacation to ease the burden of school shutdowns and remote learning, she said. With women making up about a quarter of Microsoft’s more than 2,000 tech employees in Israel, the company last month opened a new campus in Herzilya, complete with nursing rooms and play areas for children.

About 17% of Israeli mothers with young kids have lost their jobs since the outbreak began, double the rate of fathers, according to a recent study by Professor Michal Grinstein-Weiss of Washington University. Nearly 40% of those women struggled to find work because they lacked alternatives for child care.

For Braverman-Blumenstyk, the pandemic is yet another hurdle in her decade-long drive to promote women in technology. She has worked on getting them to improve skills like networking, risk-taking and being more vocal about their ideas, she said.

She has also gotten behind programs that aim to get more girls interested in math and science, and push them to learn how to code while in middle school.

“It’s very important for us to take extra steps to not only encourage our current workers, but to also help the next generation,” said Braverman-Blumenstyk, who is also chief technology officer of the global cloud & artificial intelligence security division.

Israel’s tech industry has made gradual progress on female participation. The number of startups with women founders has inched up toward 16% over the past decade, according to data compiled by Hetz Ventures, an Israeli venture capital firm.

Microsoft Broadens Help for Women Workers in Pandemic-Hit Israel

“This is a journey,” said Braverman-Blumenstyk. “And it doesn’t only depend on what Microsoft is doing. ”

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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