Women in Technology, Kosher Edition

Posted by Phil Weber on March 17, 2008
My developer training class in Tel Aviv

When was the last time you attended a programming conference or user group that had more than a handful of women in attendance? Yeah, same here. That’s why I was so surprised when I arrived for the first day of my training class in Tel Aviv last week: 11 of the 26 students were women!

During lunch I commented on the unusual ratio and learned about this:

One company in Israel has built a successful [outsourcing] operation [by] building IT centers in specific neighborhoods in Israel filled with ultra-orthodox Jewish women, who often find traditional jobs outside the home difficult or impossible.

Because of their religious beliefs, the women often find conventional employment in the secular workplace uncomfortable at best. Ultra-observant Jewish women are more formal in their interactions with men, for example, than in the average workplace. Many – though not all – of the Talpiot workers are ultra-orthodox, and Talpiot addresses issues specific to them by offering separate break rooms to women workers, for example.

Because the ability to work at challenging IT jobs while remaining true to their religious values is so appealing to the women, Talpiot is able to pay far lower wages than are offered in nearby Tel Aviv. That enables Talpiot to employ Western workers while remaining financially competitive with outsourcing firms located in traditional low-wage countries such as India and China.

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