Israel's Weizmann Institute of Science is ranked among the world's top research institutions, but only 16.5% of its faculty members are women. Although this is still too low for a multidisciplinary institution, a series of initiatives are gradually redressing the balance.
In Israel, common hurdles for women scientists are magnified because there are only eight major universities and posts are few. These appointments carry an unwritten prerequisite for postdoctoral research experience overseas. But most Israeli PhD graduates are older than their peers abroad — military service is compulsory for women and men, so they often have families and relocation can be a problem.
To encourage more women to stay in academia, the Weizmann Institute launched the Israel National Postdoctoral Program for Advancing Women in Science in 2007. This awards US$40,000 over two years to supplement the fellowships of ten women graduates selected annually to pursue research overseas. So far, 38 of the 96 recipients have returned to academic positions in Israel; 6 have academic posts abroad; and 5 returned to non-faculty appointments (47 are still overseas).
This year, the Weizmann Institute set up an annual award of $20,000 over two years for female postdocs intending to split their research between the institute and a foreign lab. Several Israeli universities and the country's Council for Higher Education now run similar programmes.