Though Israel Studies is a relatively young field, and a relatively small field, a comparison between the numbers of men and women who identify as Israel Studies scholars, either by holding chairs in Israel Studies, or by identifying Israel Studies (and its interdisciplinary focus) as central to their research and teaching, demonstrates a shocking degree of gender inequity.
Professor Rachel Harris (Comparative and World Literature) organized a two-day conference, gathering women scholars in the field to investigate barriers to entry and the systemic discrimination that women in Israel Studies face; to conduct research into the situation of women and map out the gender disparity in the field for the purposes or providing information and data; and to facilitate networking among women in Israel Studies in order to provide support, information, advice, and contacts to help women advance.
This conference was hosted by the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign March 10-12, 2019 and brought together 23 women in Israel Studies. Through social and professional interactions, the women networked at the conference and discussed future opportunities for ongoing networking.
Three sessions directed attention at the different areas of women’s personal and academic lives. Through discussion and participant observation, focus groups produced their own lists of significant factors that both helped and hindered their professional situation. In addition the participants actively offered input to shape the study going forward. The data collected is currently being collated and analyzed and will provide a qualitative study that we hope to publish, and to present at the AJS and AIS conferences.