Women mentoring women
Woman2Woman co-founders, from left, Efrat Dayagi, Keren Herscovici and Noya Lempert. (photo from Woman2Woman via israel21c.org)
Israeli actress Gal Gadot may be Wonder Woman on the big screen but Keren Herscovici, Noya Lempert and Efrat Dayagi – the initiators of a program for advancing women in prominent positions in their careers – are the true wonder women of Israel. They started Woman2Woman to help young women in top decision-making positions advance in their careers (in all fields) with some guidance from mentors who have already been there and succeeded.
“A number of times in my life, I’ve felt that I’m really in need of a mentor, and that’s what our initiative is geared toward, answering this need,” said Dayagi, a lawyer. “You can’t just cold-call someone and say, ‘So-and-so told me to call you for advice.’ I’ve sought something like this program and I would have loved a connection like this with a mentor.”
Herscovici, Lempert and Dayagi say theirs is different from other female empowerment initiatives because they don’t see women as underdogs.
“We’re not coming from the stereotypical place where women need help because they are in a lower place,” said Lempert, a doctoral student in clinical psychology. “We’re coming from a place where women have a ton of potential and we want to help them take that potential as far as possible; not from weakness but from a place of strength.”
“Ideally, there shouldn’t be a glass ceiling but, in reality, there is. The ceiling still exists. So, as long as it is there, we need to talk about it,” the women said, finishing off one another’s sentences.
Herscovici, Lempert and Dayagi are graduates of Unit 8200, the Israel Defence Forces’ signal intelligence division, known for producing an unprecedented number of startup entrepreneurs, as well as alumni with problem-solving, leadership and top managerial skills. They saw that, although women comprise half the soldiers in the unit, as 8200 alumni progress in their civilian careers, fewer women are staying in the lead. Since each member of the trio is moving full steam ahead on her individual career path, they wanted to know why other women – including those who were officers in the army – were stalling before reaching their destination.
They said they found that even the most talented woman can stumble on self-planted obstacles.
“There are many factors that can hold a woman back – family, society, discrimination – but we found one of the main reasons is they don’t believe in themselves,” said Dayagi. “There are many women who have amazing potential but feel their womanhood is stopping them from reaching the top of their game. If we know that we have the potential to succeed – and not belittle ourselves with, ‘But I’m a mom’ or ‘I’m a woman,’ or compare ourselves to men by saying, ‘Well, I’m a woman, I won’t get that position’ – then there’s no reason not to succeed.”
“We want to take the young women who are just setting out and to make sure that they continue on the path of leadership and success. We connect them with women who have already progressed a long way,” added Herscovici, a master’s student in operations research.
The program matches a young woman at the beginning of her career with a mentor in a senior position in her chosen field of expertise and sets up one-on-one sessions and group meetings.
The first four-month mentorship program, which concluded in August, accepted 20 of the 80 23-to-33-year-old applicants coming out of Unit 8200. Among the many volunteer mentors were former Treasury director-general Yael Andorn, manager of Kodak Israel Einav Aharoni-Yones and global head of human resources at Amdocs Karmit Shilo. The second program will be open to all success-minded women, not just those who have served in Unit 8200.
“We’re not aiming to change the world – we want to change how women see themselves and their worth,” said Dayagi. “We want women to embrace the idea that they can succeed in any industry.”
Herscovici said the programs are part of a bigger overall goal. “Our mission is to have an influence on the future,” she said. “We are among the few to offer personal, woman-to-woman mentors. We also have a variety of careers, not just high-tech and not just entrepreneurship, but different fields such as financing, law, science and others. We want to create a professional network of women mentors.”
Israel21C is a nonprofit educational foundation with a mission to focus media and public attention on the 21st-century Israel that exists beyond the conflict. For more, or to donate, visit israel21c.org.