Five Outstanding Female Deans at Technion Israel

An all-time record: five outstanding female researchers have been appointed deans at the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology.

The appointment of five outstanding female researcher as Deans of their departments at Technion is an all-time record among academic institutes in Israel. 

By Tamar Trabelsi (YNET)

At the Technion, an impressive women’s leadership revolution based on excellence is in full swing. Indeed, the Technion leadership has set a target for the number of Technion female students to be in direct proportion to the population: fifty percent in every faculty.

The five newly appointed deans are world-renowned researchers in their fields. They are: Technion Prof. Shulamit Levenberg – Dean of the Faculty of Biomedical Engineering; Prof. Marcelle Machluf – Dean of the Faculty of Food Engineering and Biotechnology; Prof. Iris Aravot – Dean of the Faculty of Architecture & Town Planning;  Prof. Orit Hazzan – Dean of Graduate Studies; and Prof. Yehudit Dori – Dean of the Faculty of Education in Science & Technology.

The Technion administration has restated its goal to nurture excellence among students of both sexes at Technion. It is noted that as far back as 1913, (when leading universities in the United States still did not admit women), the Technion’s founders and directors decided that the institute would be open to all, regardless of religion, race or gender. The first graduating class, comprised 16 male students and one female student.

Today, the percentage of women among undergraduate students at the Technion is 37%; graduate students 32%; and doctoral students 44%.

(l-r) Prof. Levenberg, Prof. Dori, Prof.
Aravot, Prof. Machluf and Prof. Chazzan (Photo: Elad Gershgoren)

“I see these five female faculty members as deans as role models for both female students and young female faculty members,” said Technion President Prof. Peretz Lavie, adding that the Technion is making tremendous efforts to increase both the number of female students and the number of female faculty members.

The appointment of the female deans is particularly noteworthy in view of the low percentage of women in engineering and the exact sciences which engage just 25-30% of all students in Israel, although women account for over 50% of all Israeli undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees.

The academic environment cultivated at the Technion promotes the exact message that excellence does not depend on membership of one group or another.

Prof. Orit Hazzan  says that the low representation of women in science and engineering is only low due to cultural reasons. “Therefore, the fact that there are five female deans shows that the Technion is an environment that enables anyone who excels to maximize his or her potential,” she said. Until recently, Hazzan was Dean of the Faculty of Education in Science & Technology and now she becomes Dean of Graduate Studies,  “These cultural conventions are not reflected at the Technion,” she continues, “In general, it is desirable for organizations to moderate a culture in which excellence can find unconditional expression. The academic environment cultivated at the Technion promotes the exact message that excellence does not depend on membership of one group or another.”

Dean of the Faculty of Biomedical Engineering Prof. Shulamit Levenberg – is a world-renowned expert in stem cells and tissue engineering. Levenberg refers to the increase in the number of female faculty members that have been promoted to full professor as an explanation for the women’s leadership revolution.

“Go with your heart, with your inner voice, with what you love,” she tells female college and high school students. “People will say that you chose a difficult program and that it’ll be too much for you. But don’t be afraid, be daring and listen to yourselves. For she who goes her own way, will enjoy what she does and will overcome all the obstacles.”

Prof. Yehudit Dori, Dean of the Faculty of Education in Science & Technology, says that the appointment of five female deans is a highly significant breakthrough because: “We are a role model for female undergraduate, graduate and doctoral students and for female high school students. ”This indicates that women, like men, can reach senior positions and fill them successfully. For both Yehudit Dori and Orit Hazzan, this is their second appointment as dean at the Technion. The choice of these women to lead faculty members, researchers, administrative staff and thousands of students is proof that the sky’s the limit. All of them have families, children, and I even have grandchildren, and this is proof for girls who wonder whether it’s possible to combine a successful career with raising a family.”

Go with your heart, with your inner voice, with what you love.

Prof. Marcelle Machluf, Dean of the Faculty of Food Engineering and Biotechnology, says that excellence, investment and perseverance are what lead every woman to success in any field, particularly in academia. “Unfortunately, too few women choose a career in the difficult world of academia, not because they’re not talented, but because the remote environment, and especially the immediate environment, is still not supportive enough.

“If there were more women in academia, this article would not have been written, because women are competitive and would undoubtedly have attained this position and even more senior positions, and these positions would not have been referred to as ‘masculine’,” she says.

The Technion notes that the percentage of female undergraduate students at the various faculties of Engineering at the Technion is steadily increasing, partly due to various activities at the faculties and at the Technion as a whole. These activities are designed to encourage female high school students throughout Israel, who excel in mathematics and the exact sciences, to choose to study these fields and engineering.  They include conferences and one-day events attended by hundreds of female high school students who come to the Technion and meet with women faculty members and graduate students. They tour the campus and the labs in various faculties and receive information about research topics and courses of study at the Technion.

This article was first published in Hebrew on Ynet.