This article will discuss the changes which have occurred in the kibbutz settlements and the influence of such changes on gender equality. The kibbutz organization attract attention among those dealing with the question of gender equality, because the kibbutz society has tried to implement equality between its male and female members. However, the kibbutz ideology is not specifically directed to gender issues, but rather to human rights in general. This may be one of the reasons that the "problems of female kibbutz members" (meaning their lower status) has been an ever-present issue throughout the entire history of the kibbutz movement (Tiger and Shepher, 1975; Spiro, 1979; Palgi et al., 1983).
Recently in the kibbutz settlements there have been several decisions which may bring about far-reaching ideological, social and economic changes. This article will examine the status of kibbutz women in the work sphere, in management, and with respect to their social security within the changing environment of the kibbutz.
Before we describe the current and proposed changes within the kibbutz society, we shall briefly examine the status of women in the areas of higher education, the work sphere, public service, the family, as well as social security arrangements.
Female Kibbutz Members and Higher Education
In the last 25 years, both sexes obtained the right to higher education. Though in the early 70's the right to post-secondary education belonged mainly to persons who were supposed to use this education in the direct service of the kibbutz, today every kibbutz member is entitled to further his or her studies in any field and in any academic institution. Statistics show that 61% of all men and 69% of all women aged 65 and under obtained at least 13 years of education (Palgi, 1997-Table 1, Appendix). Among those aged 31-40, the percentage of men with 13 years of education or more increases to 69% and the percentage of women to 74% (Leviatan, 1995). The gap between women and men decreases within the younger age group, and more men are now obtaining academic education. There are differences in the areas of study: the majority of the women are turning to the social sciences, philosophy and the arts, while the men study economics, pure sciences and technical professions.
Female Kibbutz Members in the Work Sphere
Each female member is considered part of the kibbutz workforce. The majority of the women--roughly 75%--work in various types of educational capacities and in consumer (domestic) services (Adar & Lewis, 1988). They work as service suppliers, and generally do not contribute directly to kibbutz revenue. In contrast, 75% of all male members work in production, and the by-products are sold outside the kibbutz, meaning they are "wage-earners". Though there is no personal income within the kibbutz framework, everyone knows who "earns" and who does not. Female kibbutz members work primarily in small teams and supply personal services; thus, their working hours are rigid. Such characteristics create much tension in the work sphere (Palgi, 1979; Hertz & Baker, 1983; Lieblich, 1984). Women work less hours than men (an arrangement that could be considered a unique privilege for women, since the female members are partially relieved from household duties, as a result of the fact that the kibbutz provides most of the domestic services). Studies among kibbutz members have reported that in the opinion of both sexes, opportunities for self-actualization are similar, both with respect to job interest, and with respect to the opportunity to learn new things on the job and to utilize their own ideas and initiatives (Palgi et al., 1983). Female kibbutz members report a high level of personal satisfaction in their work, though the younger ones (under the age of 30) are less satisfied (Palgi & Sharir, 1991). At the same time, female kibbutz members are aware that their occupations have lower prestige than those of the men (Adar & Lewis, 1988). …