Jerusalem-led mentorship program to help Gulf women in tech climb up career ladder

A group of up to 30 women working in junior tech positions from Israel, Bahrain, Morocco and the United Arab Emirates are set to come together in January to participate in a Jerusalem-led program to help them break through the glass ceiling and take up managerial roles.

The three-month program led by FemForward, a Jerusalem nonprofit founded in 2020, aims to support women in junior tech positions with the tools and network to advance their career to senior levels. In collaboration with the UAE-Israel Business Council and funded by the US embassy in Israel, the junior-to-manager program will next year for the first time include women in tech from the Abraham Accords countries.

The initiative comes after Israel started to normalize ties with Gulf countries in 2020 as part of the US-brokered Abraham Accords with Arab states, including the United Arab Emirates, Morocco and Bahrain.

“We have funding to run this program with women from Abraham Accords countries for two years and plan to have four cohorts,” FemForward founder and CEO Rachel Wagner Rosenzweig told The Times of Israel. “The Abraham Accords are basically about creating a new Middle East, one that has opportunities and prosperity for everyone from the region, and by extending our program to women in these countries we are helping to turn this vision into a reality.”

FemForward launched in 2020 to address what is often referred to as the “broken rung” trend — the lack of advancement of women in tech from entry-level to managerial positions. According to the McKinsey 2022 Women in the Workplace report, for every 100 men promoted from junior level to manager, only 87 women are promoted. The report also found that there are far fewer women working in engineering and technical fields, with women’s relative representation in these jobs declining from 2018.

“We have been seeing that the main issue in the career advancement of women in tech is actually at the beginning stages of their careers because of a lack of network, lack of confidence, and differences in the way they promote themselves as opposed to men,” Wagner Rosenzweig remarked. “So our program will be open for women at the beginning stages of their careers who are thirsty for advancement.”

Since FemForward was founded, more than 100 women in Israel have graduated from the program.

FemForward’s program including women from Gulf countries will kick off with a two-day seminar in mid-January in Israel and will be held in English. It will be followed by weekly online lectures and a mentorship program and end with a two-day seminar in Dubai with networking events.

“We are paying for all the participants to come to Israel and we are also going to have lecturers from the Abraham accords countries too,” Wagner said.

The course includes lectures led by leading female executives including Adi Soffer Teeni, general manager of Meta Israel, and Fleur Hassan-Nahoum, deputy mayor of Jerusalem and co-founder of the UAE-Israel Business Council, as well as from companies such as Google, McKinsey and Intel. Additionally, every woman on the program is mentored personally by a senior executive in the tech industry.

“As the technology industry in the Abraham Accords countries continues to grow, so do the opportunities for women to expand their careers and become managers and leaders,” said Fleur Hassan-Nahoum, co-founder of the Gulf-Israel Women’s Forum, a division of the UAE-Israel Business Council. “By providing them with the tools they need, we are helping to increase the numbers of female leaders in the region.”

The UAE-Israel Business Council was founded to bring together entrepreneurs, business people, government officials and organizations looking to initiate joint projects and advance economic and social opportunities between the two countries.

“The Abraham Accords was the beginning of something really important,” said US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides. “It’s the essence of bringing people together.”