Israeli event celebrates women in tech


A sold-out networking event in Tel Aviv on Sunday titled “The Power of Female Resilience: Recharging with Women in Tech Israel” featured as its guest speaker Lt.-Col. Hadar Hexter-Alon, deputy gender adviser to the Chief of Defense staff.

She advised the audience – ranging from founders and CEOs to employees and job seekers, which included native Israelis and immigrants from several countries – on how to pursue their professional dreams, balance their careers with family life, and find time for themselves.

Women in Tech® is more than just a global network; it’s a social enterprise committed to Driving & Measuring IMPACT with a mission to bridge the gender gap and empower 5 million women and girls in STEM by 2030 to embrace technology through impactful actions in four core areas: Education, Business, Digital Inclusion, and Advocacy. Headquartered in Paris, Women in Tech® build skills and confidence, ensuring women are primed for success in the ever-evolving tech landscape. 

The Tel Aviv event, supported and hosted by Point at Azrieli, was organized by WIT-Israel director Jenyfer Jerbi, who co-founded the Israeli branch in 2020, during COVID.

“They didn’t have a chapter in Israel, so I saw an opportunity to forge something strong for women here to become more international,” Jerbi, who hails from Montreal and was active in similar initiatives there, told the Magazine. “We’re working to break the glass ceiling – not only in the tech sector.

LT.-COL. HADAR HEXTER-ALON (R), deputy gender adviser to the Chief of Defense staff, captivated a packed audience at a Women In Technology-Israel event in Tel Aviv this past Sunday. (credit: WIT-Israel)

“We have many amazing women on board, like Hilla Bakshi, the diamond of networking here,” she said. Bakshi is the founder of HaMeetupistiot (a Hebrew play on the English word “meet-up,” meaning “the women who meet up”), a Facebook group that promotes personal and professional development for women through informal programming and professional workshops.

Hexter-Alon, 41, has been in the IDF for 21 years, where she has implemented significant positive changes in the status of women in the army. “For those women who finished their service 20 years ago, we are not where we were then,” she said.

The deputy gender adviser discussed some of the challenges she has faced since the age of 15, when she moved to a new city with her family, and how she has learned to overcome them. “All my life, I jumped from place to place, both before the army and during my service,” she said. 

“Whenever I noticed a position that I wanted to fill, I told myself that I must do it, no matter the price. I wanted it so badly that I couldn’t see myself waking up in the morning and not fulfilling that role. I always went with what pulled me. Had I not fought for it, I never could have gone this far.”


MARRIED WITH three children, Hexter-Alon became pregnant with her first child at the age of 31. At the time, she was very worried that the baby would destroy her career. She wondered how she could maintain her identity and juggle family life with work; but by the time she was expecting her other children, she had no such worries.

Her routine was certainly different from that of her male colleagues. She would pump breast milk during breaks and work late only a couple of nights a week; indeed, she appreciated those nights, which she described as her own time away from the kids. Other times, she would give up socializing with colleagues at 7 p.m. and go home to her family. “But that is what I wanted to do,” she stressed.

Hexter-Alon is also a part-time community manager. “I’m very proud of my community, Eshet Hayil [Hebrew for “woman of valor”], and I’m very proud of the army for responding to this issue of support for women – and men. It really changes lives.

“There are many ways to help us succeed,” she said. “It’s hard for all of us, whether serving in the IDF or in a different career. I think the solution is to get to know the politics of the organization and how to use that knowledge for our benefit. That is also what men seem to do.

“It’s important what you say at work and how you present your concerns,” she warned. “For example, don’t apologize for having to go home and take care of your baby; instead, show that being a mother is beneficial to everyone. If we don’t bring babies into the world, then who will? Learning how to present your issues makes all the difference.”

Keren Fanan, a venture partner and board member at WIT, explained the importance of these networking meetings. “I met Hadar at another program for women and was so impressed by her work and the impact she’s making for women in general,” she said. “It made me think that if not for that specific event, we may never have met, coming from different personal and professional backgrounds. I just hope that most of you today find someone who will make an impact on you – and maybe if you didn’t come today, you wouldn’t have met that person.”

ANNE BAER is CEO and founder of iKare Innovation, a climatech expert, and a board member of the French Foreign Trade Advisors. A co-founder of WIT-Israel, she had just returned two days earlier from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, where she attended LEAP 2024, an event for over 200,000 people from around the world that highlighted digital pioneers in the global technology industry, a lot of them women.

“I was amazed to see how many women were there,” she said. “Many of them are still wearing the burka, and still, I can tell you that you have all kinds of women and all kinds of behaviors in relation to modernity and tradition – and I felt completely secure and safe. This is part of the gender diplomacy in which we can participate. This is perhaps the most important value for the mentor today.”

A recent report by RISE Israel (formerly the Startup Nation Policy Institute), a nonprofit independent think tank, found that women comprised just 36% of employees in the sector in 2023, a figure unchanged from the previous year.

“I think men are starting to understand the importance of collaborating with women and listening to them. We’re moving forward – definitely,” Jerbi told the Magazine. “We’re seeing progress, but there’s still a lot of work to be done in many areas, at different levels.”

According to Startup Nation Central’s spotlight on Women’s Day 2024, in Israel “only 16% of active tech companies were founded or co-founded by women. The highest representation can be found in the health tech and agrifood tech sectors, with 23% and 20% of active companies having female founders, respectively.

“The rate has been growing over time but has shown little improvement in recent years, with 20.9% of companies launched in 2023 founded or co-founded by women.”

“We’re not the only ones in the world who want to see progress,” Jerbi said. “That’s why WIT, the global organization, is aiming to empower five million girls and women by 2030.”

With women and organizations like these leading the effort, hopefully they will. 

Saudi Arabia: a mix of tradition and modernity

Board member of the French Foreign Trade Advisors Anne Baer is CEO and founder of iKare Innovation and a climatech expert.

When the Magazine caught up with her on Sunday, she had just returned from LEAP 2024 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, a 200,000-attendee international event highlighting digital pioneers in the global technology industry – many of them women.

The four-day event, from March 4-7, was an opportunity to hear from experts about the latest technology and to network with thousands of people.

“One out of three people there was a woman,” Baer told the Magazine, invited in her capacity as a French foreign trade adviser. 

Now living in Israel, she hails from France and traveled to Saudi Arabia on her French passport. At an event in Tel Aviv that Sunday for Women in Technology-Israel, which she co-founded, she encouraged those with foreign passports to go to Riyadh and witness the “incredible” progress being made.

Describing a mix of tradition and modernity, Baer told the Magazine that Saudi women are no longer forced to cover their hair, although many still wear the niqab [full face covering].

“The women have a strong desire to work,” she said. “They want to earn their living and gain knowledge and independence,” she said.

There is no longer the need for an escort when leaving their homes.

“This is a reform that started seven years ago,” Baer noted. She conceded, however, that while discussing it with men, some made comments such as “You give them a finger, and they’ll take the whole hand.”

The Magazine asked how the locals reacted to her being based in Israel and whether there was any shock or hint of rejection.

“Not from the Saudis,” Baer replied.

“A lot of French companies met with counterparts there, and I was able to meet many Saudis. They saw me as a businesswoman. I felt safe and mostly welcome. At some point, I would mention where I’m located, and they would just continue the conversation. I also understood that there are some Israelis working with them through third companies.”

As for her organization, “We are French companies based all over the world, including in Israel. It makes things more interesting for them, I would say.

“I had the opportunity to get first-hand feedback on the political vision regarding peace in the Middle East, and it reflected what we had heard from the media and from recent statements by the Saudi foreign minister in Davos and elsewhere,” Baer said.

“Their vision is to normalize relations with Israel on the condition that they work towards a two-state solution; this is the line, and they stick to it.

“The whole country is going through a deep transformation, moving from an oil-based to a non-oil-based economy. They are not prepared to invest trillions of dollars in infrastructure for tourism, transportation, and diversification of their economy if we cannot guarantee peace.”

Baer discussed the new India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (IMEC), which will connect India to Europe through the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Israel, and Greece. 

“Israel is not a partner [yet], but it is on the road,” she said. “They would need to use the Haifa port and so on. IMEC is a very strategic initiative for the Western world as an alternative to China’s modern-day Silk Road, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

“IMEC is a project of the free world. That’s why Saudi Arabia is such an important piece of the puzzle; it’s on the road from India to Europe, and so is Israel.”

From conversations she had, Baer could tell that the general feeling in Riyadh is that the Oct. 7 attacks were also directed at them, in an attempt by Iran to halt Saudi normalization with Israel.

Regarding the Start-Up Nation’s technological expertise, “the Saudis want to learn from Israel’s success story the same way they would want to learn from any success story, and they’re very pragmatic,” Baer concluded.

“Their vision is prosperity, and prosperity comes through peace, and peace comes through Israel.”

ASKED TO COMMENT on the incident a day later in which a US delegation cut short its visit to Saudi Arabia after one of its members, Rabbi Abraham Cooper, chair of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, was asked to remove his kippah while visiting Diriyah, a historic town that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Baer said that she, in fact, had visited Diriyah.

“It is a highly symbolic vestige that was the original home of the Saudi royal family, not a religious place. It was recently reopened to tourists after an extensive restoration under the auspices of UNESCO.

“Tourists from all religions are most welcome to visit Diriyah, which, contrary to what I read, is not outside Riyadh but rather the most touristic attraction of the capital.

“While regretting that such an incident took place, I do think we must be patient. Saudi Arabia is undergoing such a huge transformation, and it has to drill down to every level.

“The best that could happen now is for the rabbi to give it a second chance.”