Ultra-Orthodox Women – an Emerging Force in Israeli Hi-Tech

Matrix employs about 700 ultra-Orthodox women in Modi’in Elite, proving that the ultra-Orthodox (Haredi) can be integrated in the Israeli employment market

GiladSlonim – Epoch Times

There are those who consider Modi’in Elite and Beit Shemesh to be a closed ultra-Orthodox society.  Matrix however sees this as a population whose potential has not been fully tapped. The software company, Matrix, serves as one of the main models for integrating ultra-Orthodox in the work circle. Matrix presently employs 700 ultra-Orthodox women in Modi’in Elite and Beit Shemesh in the Development and Quality Assurance Division established nearly seven years ago. 

The Development Center of Matrix Global was established by the Matrix Group at the end of 2004 and currently employs 700 ultra-Orthodox women in two development centers in Beit Shemesh and Modi’in Elite. The model is based on a simple, yet innovative idea – recruiting and hiring ultra-Orthodox women for software development and quality assurance  positions in a work environment and culture adjusted to the needs of the ultra-Orthodox sector and meeting “Rabbinical requirements”.

This unique project generates a high quality work force appealing to cost-conscious customers, in comparison to the costs of personnel in the central region of Israel.

Most of the ultra-Orthodox women currently employed at the development center have  an academic degree ( either a bachelor’s degree in computer science, or a degree in computer engineering)  and have undergone professional training at John Bryce (Matrix’s sister company), while adapting their practical knowledge to that required by the industry.

Upon completion of the training period, the ultra-Orthodox women are hired for offshore projects at the Development Center. Libby Affen, Chief Operating Officer at Matrix Global, indicates that in the previous year Matrix Global   has recruited over 160 women and in August alone the company recruited 50 female employees. According to Libby, nearly 66 percent of the women are employed in development and the rest are employed in manual and automatic testing.

Matrix Global has many Israeli and international customers, namely hi-tech companies, finance and telecom companies, startups and large computer units. However, as opposed to how things are done in “secular” hi-tech, for the most part, the female employees work “only” 8 hours. However, Libby recounts that “no project has failed because we couldn’t meet deadlines. When necessary, they [the women] work at any hour, on Saturday night, evenings and nights.”

Matrix’s venture receives projects from three sources: Matrix’s projects for the local market and for export; Israeli hi-tech company and software distribution projects and projects for overseas software companies and software distributors. Among the institutions that have joined as Matrix’s customers in this venture: Leumi Bank, the Finance Ministry, Menora Insurance, Phoenix Insurance, Mizrahi Bank, Comverse, Motorola, Kodak and NICE.

The advantages of such a center are the considerably lower costs compared to those of hi-tech employees in the major cities, in addition to significantly simpler work methodologies that are the result of an Israeli organization employing Israeli workers. Additionally, one of the main advantages is the near zero attrition rate of these women. This enables companies to retain and further enhance knowledge, and as such, facilitates the transfer of more and more development jobs in the company’s core area to the center located in Modi’in Elite.

Obviously, a great challenge facing the company is the number of births. However according to Ram Yonish, CTO Quality Assuarance at Matrix Global, this is a problem that can be surmounted: “A customer has a budget for five employees but on a yearly basis, there could be six workers employed in one month and there could be four workers. However on a yearly basis, this is offset”. Additionally, Ram says that the maternity leave lasts exactly 14 weeks, and the workers hardly ever extend their maternity leave, which enables accurate personnel planning.

Ram recounts what it is like to work with ultra-Orthodox women; at first, when he arrived at the development center, he didn’t know how he could address them: could they be addressed on a personal level, or strictly on a professional basis? However, with time, he got used to it. Ram tells us about the main differences in comparison with the secular world.

Firstly, he says that the woman earns the livelihood, and the husband studies at the Kollel (Judaic studies program for married men). The women appreciate the workplace as a source of livelihood, and for this very reason, they take their work seriously. When an ultra-Orthodox woman comes to work, Ram recounts, she comes to get her work done  and she takes this into consideration, and this is why she won’t make telephone calls to the healthcare fund, to the doctor, or to her husband in the middle of work. If it happens, he says it’s a marginal phenomenon.

Ram even cites extreme cases where a worker comes with a few shekels to the Team Leader of one of the customers and says that she spoke for a few minutes on the telephone at the expense of her work and so she’d like to return the money. “It’s hard to understand, but that just shows how firmly rooted this is in the society and culture, they came for the job, they came to work”, says Ram.

An additional advantage that Ram cites is the motivation factor. Ram says that the employees are highly motivated to give it their all on the job. It’s not that they’re looking to get ahead and become managers, and manage people as in the secular world, says Ram.

But because their work is so important to them, they want to show that they are good, the best. They invest a lot of effort to do the best job possible. When necessary they come in to work in the evenings, at night and on Saturday night.

“Today many people easily switch jobs, move on, after they’ve exhausted all possibilities in their workplace. One of our advantages is that Generation Y doesn’t exist in the ultra-Orthodox world. It’s not the world of ‘reality’ and this has a lot of advantages - stability, familiarity with customer content and systems, and in terms of knowledge retention”, says Ram.

“I don’t know how many people are exposed to this, our customers are extremely exposed to this”, Ram further adds.​