Series Thirteen, Episode Five: Focus on Israel – Inclusion, Investment and Innovation

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Host Julia Streets is joined by Jeremy Seeff, partner at Epstein Rosenblum Maoz (ERM)  and Director of LGBTech, and Nava Swersky Sofer, a board member, CEO and consultant on innovation, entrepreneurship, venture capital and technology transfer. Together they discuss the vibrancy and innovation of the rise of the tech industry in Israel. They look at the importance of Environmental, Social and Governance through the lens of various stakeholders, and discuss how initiatives can strengthen the LGBT community within the workplace and increase female leadership on boards.

Jeremy Seeff and Nava Swersky Sofer,
Jeremy Seeff, partner at Epstein Rosenblum Maoz (ERM)

Jeremy Seeff

In his day job, Jeremy Seeff is a partner at Epstein Rosenblum Maoz (ERM) law firm based in Tel Aviv, Israel, where he advises on a range of corporate and finance matters. His clients include major international investors and corporates such as Blackstone, Softbank, Capital One, Ikea, Lime, and Indian Oil Corporation, as well as large international banks including BNP Paribas, Lloyds, Natixis, and Deutsche Bank. In his ‘gay job’, Jeremy is a director of non-profit LGBTech, which promotes D&I for the LGBT+ community in the Israeli workforce. Jeremy also serves an advisory board member for World History Encyclopedia.

Nava Swersky Sofer is a board member, CEO and consultant on innovation, entrepreneurship, venture capital and technology transfer

Nava Swersky Sofer

Nava Swersky Sofer is a board member, CEO and consultant on innovation, entrepreneurship, venture capital and technology transfer with 30 years of experience living and working on three continents, and a frequently-invited speaker at top universities and major international forums. A long-standing advocate of gender equity, she is the pro-bono chair of Directors Leading Change, a forum comprising the top 250 female board members in Israel, working to achieve gender equity on boards and in top management. She is often quoted on innovation models, including in the best-selling book “Start-Up Nation”, and speaks worldwide about Israeli innovation on behalf of the Foreign Ministry. Nava sits on a number of Boards, and is a sought-after mentor at leading accelerators.

Series Thirteen, Episode Five Transcript

Julia: Hello. My name is Julia Streets and welcome to DiverCity Podcast. Talking about equity, inclusion, and diversity in financial services On the podcast, we seek to shine a light on positive progress, call out areas requiring further focus, and offer lots of ideas to help drive change. And before we get started today, I just want to take a moment to thank our friends at City A.M. for their continued support of DiverCity Podcast, with a dedicated page on their website, publishing and promoting both our episodes and our supporting blog series so their readers can stay on the very top of what’s the latest in the diversity and inclusion debate. You may want to check out their own podcast called The City View for all the latest news and opinion from the city, because we at DiverCity Podcast are huge fans. Now, today we journey to Israel, and I’m delighted to be joined by two guests, Jeremy Seeff, and Nava Swersky-Sofer. Let me just tell you a bit about each of our guests.

In his day job, Jeremy Seeff is a partner at Epstein Rosenblum Maoz, which is a law firm based in Tel Aviv, Israel, where he advises on a range of corporate and finance matters. His clients include major international investors and corporates, think Ikea, Lime, the Indian Oil Corporation, as well as large international banks, including BNP Paribas, Lloyd, Natixis, and Deutsche Bank. In his gay job, as he describes it, Jeremy is a director of the nonprofit organisation, LGBTech, which promotes DNI for the LGBT+ community in the Israeli workforce. And he also serves as an advisory board member for the World History Encyclopaedia. Jeremy it’s wonderful to have you on show. Thanks for being with us.

Jeremy: Thank you so much for having me. I’m very happy to be here.

Julia: Joining Jeremy, it’s a pleasure to welcome Nava Swersky-Sofer. Nava is a board member, CEO, consultant on innovation, entrepreneurship, venture capital and technology transfer. She is a longstanding advocate of gender equity, and is the chair of Directors Leading Change, a forum comprising the top 250 female board members in Israel, all working to achieve gender equity on boards and in top management positions. She’s also mentor to leading innovation accelerators in Israel, as well as the Nanjing Microsoft Incubator in China, and Spark, the first accelerator in Thailand. And returning to the subject of venture capital, it’s worth noting that 20 years ago, Nava founded the world’s first female-only VC firm. So Nava, it is great to have your company today. Thanks for joining us.

Nava: Thank you Julia. It’s a pleasure.

Julia: I always start the show, because I’m just naturally intrigued. I mean, your biography’s probably only a fraction of what you’re doing these days. I’m really keen to get into: What are you focused on right now? Jeremy, can I come to you first?

Jeremy:  As you helpfully mentioned, I categorised my work as day job and gay job. So in my day job as a lawyer, acting for corporates, I naturally am seeing a lot more ESG topics coming to the fore, and I think it’s going to be very relevant to this discussion to think about how companies and how my clients, and also me as a lawyer, can influence the ESG discussion. So that’s kind of one side on the day job. On the gay job, I think with LGBTech, which has been around now for just over 10 years, we have seen quite a lot of improvements in Israel on D&I for the LGBT+ community, but there’s still a very long way to go. So I think our focus is really working with stakeholders, be they governmental, and specifically with the corporate world, in trying to get them to engage on the issue of diversity and inclusion, specifically for the LGBT+ community and really moving towards our programmes, which I’m sure we’ll be talking about in the course of today.

Julia: We certainly will. There’s a lot in that we’re going to unpick, for sure, as we go through the discussion. Nava, can I ask you the same question? What are you particularly focused on right now?

Nava: I spend most of my time now on three different things. One is I sit on a number of boards, publicly traded companies, mostly in Israel, and a number of international organisations of companies in Europe and Canada at moment. The second thing I do is I both teach innovation and entrepreneurship. I head the entrepreneurship track at Israel’s leading school of music, which is a bit of a departure from where I started out. And I mentored a number of incubators and accelerators in universities and other places here in Israel, and again abroad. And the third thing I do is spend a fair amount of time on nonprofit work. Most of that goes to Directors Leading Change, which I assume will talk a little more about. I also sit on the board of governors of a number of colleges, boards of directors of college and youth village. And I try and bring the gender lens into everything I do. But mostly I think by being there, you begin to make a difference.

Julia: Absolutely. What I love about that, as I was listening to you talk, was if you think about the entire pipeline through young talents coming through academia, learning to become business leaders and entrepreneurs, and then also that journey to become large corporates. So it’s about growth and scale and success, it’s wonderful to know that you’ve got a seat at every table along the way, which is wonderful. Well, there’s so much I’m really keen to get into, but the first thing I have to do, and I’m so proud because we work with organisations in Israel as well, is I just want to talk about the tech scene in Israel, if we may. I wonder if we just set the scene a little. I mean, it’s very vibrant. We’ve talked about your role Nava in entrepreneurship and innovation and also digital transformation as well. Perhaps you could just set the scene.

Nava: Israel has one of the most vibrant tech scenes in the world. It’s become known as the startup nation. It’s partly why everyone comes here to see how we do what we do. And it’s been growing by leaps and bounds. In the last year, 2021, we saw over $25 billion in exits, unprecedented numbers, huge IPOs, mostly on NASDAQ and New York Stock Exchange. And we have, at any given point in time, roughly 6,000 startups. And I say at any given point in time, because we typically have six to 700 new ones per year, and then a more or less equal number of companies that don’t succeed. But what has been happening recent years is we’ve seen more and more companies staying.

You mentioned that yourself and that’s a very important point. We’re slowly moving from being an ecosystem that provides lots of good starts, to an ecosystem that can also grow significant players. You are looking at dozens of unicorns here in Israel companies, privately owned companies, valued it over a billion dollars, as the definition goes. Fewer now, because a lot of them have gone public in the past year, but new ones come in all the time.

So it’s the mark of the system that’s both growing up and becoming more established in what it does. I’ll mention all so that we have the highest amount of venture capital per capita in the world, and the second highest in absolute dollar terms. So there is money to fuel all this growth. And the reason the money comes here is because the money makes money. Venture Capitalists, at the end of the day, want to do good deals and they go with the good deals are. That’s why you’re seeing so many of the big international funds establishing activities here in Israel.

The second thing to mention that I think is also of interest is that our ecosystem is quite varied. So we have a lot in the areas that you might naturally think of, cybersecurity, artificial intelligence and so on, but we also have a vibrant health tech scene. We have a biotech scene. We have a growing very strong food tech scene, artificial meat, artificial milk, and really very exciting. Some of the biggest companies in the world are coming out of Israel. So it’s varied.

Julia: Jeremy your work with LGBTech must give you the privilege of seeing all sorts of great innovators coming through and talents coming through as well. What are your thoughts about the emergence of tech areas, just building on Nava’s remarks there?

Jeremy: Sure. Well, first of all, I think Nava gave a really good overview. So that’s a helpful base. I’ll also just say that LGBTech, despite the name, and it’ll probably go through a rebrand, we do actually also work more and more these days with non-tech companies as well, because obviously they’re part of the tech ecosystem. But, from that, and also from my work as a lawyer where I act for investors and for startup companies, I do see the full range. And I think maybe two things that I would add to what Nava said is, one, to maybe focus on sort of Israel’s status as a melting pot, both in terms of how Israel was founded, and even today there’s a very large proportion of immigrants in Israel. We’re a pretty tiny country. Our entire population is only about nine million. So when you put that into the context of the numbers that Nava was discussing, over 70 unicorns, 25 billion of investment, I think Nava also mentioned just in the last year, VC investment during 2021, that really is staggering.

 

I think that’s one thing to mention is the melting pot environment. And I think to me that’s a really good anecdotal example of why diversity is helpful, because actually through that diversity, through that melting pot, you get diversity of thought, you get diversity of experience, and all of that obviously contributes to the dynamic nature of the ecosystem.

The second thing I guess I wanted to mention is just to think about the great resignation that everyone’s been talking about over the last couple of years and the changes we’ve seen have really put a highlight on technology. And I think another way to look at that, the other side of that coin, is to think of it as the great acceleration. So Nava spoke about the move from startup nation to growth nation or to scale up nation, as people are starting to call it. I think the acceleration to digital and digitalization to the tech economy is creating a lot of flux in the labour market, all over the world, but also in Israel. And I think that’s a really important point in time when we can really influence the diversity and inclusion discussion for the good and the bad. There’s obviously bad things happening on that front, but also a lot of good.

Julia: That’s enormously helpful, because as I was saying in my sort of earlier remarks, the talent pool really matters. We talk a lot on the podcast about how actually successful innovation is all very much predicated on the need for diversity, because if you’re trying to build technology, you’ve got to have diverse experiences and talent around it in order to help build technology, but also have the framework that means that when you have differing opinions, you’re also testing it more rigorously than ever before without risk of bias, et cetera. So actually, I wonder if I could just pick up on a remark you were making earlier Jeremy about environmental, social and governance, the ESG element. This is very dominant to people’s minds. Whether you’re a venture capital or whether you are a private investor, or indeed actually any citizen on the planet at the moment is tending to use the ESG moniker around climate change and innovation as well. I would love to get your thoughts, given these different stakeholders that we’ve talked about, how they are influencing the ESG discussion. And therefore, what role does D&I play within that discussion?

Jeremy: Sure. Well, I mean, obviously that’s a huge question. The ESG topic is itself a mammoth topic, and I guess we’ll focus mostly on the S, on the social, because D&I generally comes within that category. Although obviously it also touches on governance. I would probably break it down, the three main categories of stakeholders are government or semi-government organisations, individuals, and then businesses. So I think if we look at sort of governmental around the world, and specifically in Israel, there’s a lot of good and a lot of bad that can be driven by government focus. When we look at certain totalitarian regimes or certain conservative regimes where diversity is not well accepted, is not focused on, we could say. But by contrast in jurisdictions or in countries, when you really see a focus on diversity, governmental change, whether it’s through laws or through regulations, can be a huge driver.

I’m sure Nava will be able to input on this as well, but looking at regulations around sort of boardroom diversity, especially around female representation on boardrooms. Now, a lot of that does come also from regulators or from sort of semi-governmental organisations. In Israel with starting to see some of that, I think specifically in other categories,. Unfortunately on the LGBT+ side, it’s much further behind. In early February of 2022, we saw a new initiative being declared in Israel that basically had every sort of category of diversity you could expect, and specifically did not mention LGBT+. So there’s a lot of work to be done there. And as an example of where we see that coming in is in 2018, there were promises by the government here to expand surrogacy rights to gay men, be they couples or single men. And they didn’t follow through on that promise. That led to huge protests, which LGBTech was very involved in organising involving companies, for the first time at that scale, in that discussion.

Jeremy: So that’s kind of the government side of things. The individual side of things, I won’t focus on too much, but obviously people can drive change, whether it’s through protesting, whether it’s through educating people around them, raising issues in their workplaces, and ultimately talking with their money and their feet by going to workplaces or going to businesses that do support a diverse agenda. And then I guess the main focus, at least for what LGBTech does and what I focus on is the business side. I’m a real believer that businesses can drive change, probably the quickest out of all stakeholders. Businesses ultimately employ personnel. They contract with counterparties where they can set the contractual requirements. They are a place where people spend such a vast majority of their time. You really see the difference between businesses that engage on this issue, that create a social environment that is welcoming and diverse and inclusive, compared to those that don’t. And I think at the end of the day, the bottom line really reflects that, which when you’re a business, the bottom line is key.

Julia: I wonder if we could also bring in the perspective of the role of advisors. There you’ve talked about many different stakeholders in the ecosystem, whether that’s government, corporate, and individual. I’d love to think about the role of advisors. And Nava, who better to turn to on this subject, really?

Nava: I agree with everything Jeremy has said. And I’d add to that, in Israel in particular, the whole topic ESG, which was late to arrive on the scene, has suddenly exploded. And that’s maybe just started happening over the past, less than a year. There have been activities and there have been actions, but suddenly ESG everywhere, conferences, mentioned now the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange is now looking to enforce some sort of ESG regulation. They have put out a core proposals for people to comment on. We’ll see where that goes. As we speak now, it’s mid February, yesterday the Israel Securities Authority launched an initiative to include more women, that’s specifically gender diversity, on boards. Now they had over 200 people participate in the opening meeting yesterday, including the chair people of all the large operations, the large banks, the big financial institutions, institutional investors.

And while I think the goals that they have set are a little limited, I’m happy to see the big institutions and the regulators join the discussion, because maybe a year or two ago when I sat with them, they were not even really willing to join the discussion. So that is really a wind of change. And going to a point that you mentioned earlier Jeremy, diversity and why that is, I agree with that. One of the reasons for the great success of the Israeli tech system, the guest speaker at a recentevent that I mentioned with Ann Cairns, who we actually know, vice chair of MasterCard international and chair of 30% Club. And she joined the discussion yesterday and she started out with a simple and excellent remark saying, “It makes no sense to recruit from half the talent.” And that to me, in one sentence, summarises the essence of what you need to do. Now we know all the research and I’m happy to discuss some of it here.

We know that diverse boards lead to better business results. Simply put, you make more money. And that’s what businesses want to do is they want to make more money. All of that makes sense. But at the end of the day, it somehow has to rise to public attention. And I think we have arrived at that point here in Israel. The LGBT+ community has been very active, and the protests that Jeremy mentioned few years back were remarkable because the entire tech industry took part, the big companies, the big employers. We had a small example of that when it came to women at the end of last summer. It was actually not around diversity. It was around gender-based violence, but it was the first time that the very, very big players in the Israel market in the business sector took part in some form of a protest. So I’m hopeful that we’ll see change in our lifetime.

Julia: It’s so important, isn’t it? It’s wonderful to hear how that has taken some prominence. As you say, I think Jeremy, you made the remark earlier, we’ve got a way to go, but the role of the corporates of course has a huge impact in terms of awareness, but also actually driving change as well. Well, I think that’s a great moment, if we may, to bring in Cynthia Akinsanya, who has some research to support today’s discussion

Cynthia: The 2022 Calcalist article highlights that the number of employees in the tech industry in Israel leapt during the pandemic, but led to a decline in the number of female employees in the industry. The decline from 36.3% down to 33.6% is the lowest percentage of women in the sector over the past decade. According to figures from the monthly bulletin issued by the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics, since 2012, that number hasn’t dropped below 34%. While the number of male employees in the tech industry has risen over the past two years by 41,500, the number of female employees has only grown by 6,200. This translates to a sevenfold increase in male employees over their female counterparts.

Julia: Many thanks, Cynthia, for the research to support today’s discussion. And of course you could find all of that on our website. I should also point out that we’ve had the wonderful Ann Cairns on the show. So we’ll point you to the episode in that you can find it on the website. And this is where you can find a lot of rich material. So it’s divercitypodcast.com. That’s diversity with a C, not with an S. divercitypodcast.com. You can find all our episodes and sign up for early notifications of future recordings. Do also sign up for our newsletter. It’s called DE and I that’s caught our eye, and that is where we share new stories and updates so you can stay on top of what’s current. You can follow us on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn, and Divercity Podcast is available on Bright Talk and all good podcast channels, and we’d love rating because it does all help to promote the show.

Let’s just return to a couple of the conversations we were having before the break actually. And Jeremy, I’d love to come to you first of all. If we could please just talk about the work of LGBTech. Talk to us about some of the things you’re focused on. And I gather there’s something called the Merimot programme, which caught my eye. Tell us more.

Jeremy: Sure. With pleasure. LGBTech is a nonprofit organisation. We’ve been around for about 11 years now, formally as a nonprofit registered organisation for two years now, completely volunteer-run until last year when we hired our first CEO, Sivan, who is excellent. And basically we focus on improving the position of diversity and inclusion for the LGBT+ community in the Israeli workforce. So we do that in three principle ways. The first way is that we work with the community itself. So we run community events. We often have very high profile speakers from around the world. We’ve had the prime minister of Luxembourg. We’ve had Lloyd John Brown, Dr. Vivian Ming, who’s a well known neuroscientist from California. Sir Ronald Cohen and the like. And so that’s one element of it when we work with our community and help engage them on topics of diversity and inclusion.

The second limb of what we do is really more policy driven. We’ll work with other community organisations, so other LGBT+ organisations in Israel and around the world, or governmental and semi-governmental organisations to try and drive the policy discussion. So one example of how we do that is we publish lists of LGBT+ senior people in Israel. There aren’t that many. There are no known as far as I’m aware anyway, LGBT+ board members on biggest companies in Israel. There’s a lack of visibility for business people from the community. And so that’s one thing. And we also run a survey. Last year’s survey we had over 900 respondents. We’re about to publish in early 2022, our next survey of the status of the workplace. That will be in English, Hebrew and in Arabic. And basically we survey the community to sort of understand where things are on being out in the workplace, on what workplaces are providing to the community and so on. And then with that data, we’re able to better serve the community by presenting that to governmental organisations and also to companies themselves and ways they can improve.

And then the third, which I think is probably the biggest focus, is the work we do with businesses themselves. So we have a range of things that we do with businesses. We work with them on their policies, their internal policies on LGBT+ diversity and inclusion. We run workshops and training sessions for them to help them to improve their positions on this. And obviously we help encourage them to run events and to be more visible in their LGBT+ support, as I mentioned, for example, with the protests that were held in 2018. You asked me also specifically about the Merimot programme. So Merimot is basically a programme that we established last year to help provide mentoring to more junior or even student females from the LGBT+ community, especially in tech, and especially in the more technical parts of the tech industry. It’s very, very male dominated. And so as well as the LGBT+ side of things, we wanted to give a focus to the female members of our community. And that’s a mentorship programme basically where we have more senior females from the industry helping to mentor more junior female members of the community.

I think that’s a broad overview. Maybe one last thing I would mention for an exciting development. I mentioned earlier that we’re sort of moving away from only dealing with tech. We’ve literally just confirmed over the last few weeks in early 2022, that we’ll be getting funding from the Office for Social Equality, so a governmental department, to fund D&I training for companies in the Jerusalem municipality area. So LGBTech, despite our name, we don’t only work with tech companies. The Jerusalem ecosystem is very, very different from the typical tech ecosystem that we hear about in Tel Aviv and the sort of more central part of the country. So we’re really excited for this opportunity and for governmental backing to go into companies in Jerusalem that have a very different population base, and maybe are not really focused on quite as much when talking about the tech scene or the ecosystem in Israel, and talking about diversity and inclusion to make sure the LGBT+ community is also being focused there.

Julia: That sounds amazing. And we look forward to hearing your progress. Do check in with us, we’d love to hear how that’s going. And how wonderful to have financial support, which of course, as we know, that really kind of powers change as well. Nava, can I come to you? Very interesting listening to Jeremy talk about the Merimot Foundation with regards to mentorship and support. And we’ve talked a little bit about the pipeline. We were talking earlier about the academic journey, right the way through to board level as well. Tell us more about female leadership in Israel and where you think there should be greater to focus in supporting more women to very senior management and board positions.

Nava: I have great belief in mentorship. So if I start with that, and dovetailing on what Jeremy just told us, one of the things I do believe in is not just mentorship as saying, “Well, come meet with me a few times and I’ll give you some tips.” But more than that, mentorship in the sense of having a champion to help push you along within your career, within your company, to the next level. And while we have a lot of mentorship programmes, I think there is still a ways to go when it comes to championing real career acceleration and moving into the higher levels of management. One of the programmes that I personally volunteer in, and I’m very fond of, is a programme that gives high end executive and board level training to Arab and Jewish women here in Israel. It’s a nonprofit.

I created a partnership with them and my personal request there is if I am to mentor someone, I always work with someone from the Arab society, because I feel that if we, as Jewish women in Israel are at a disadvantage, Arab women in Israel are at a double or triple disadvantage. And again, on a personal level, it’s something that I feel is important and enjoy doing. But I want to go back to the bigger picture and where we’re trying to make a difference at the moment. The current status in Israel is that publicly traded company boards must only have one woman on the board, or actually the law says one person of the opposite sex, but I have yet to see a publicly traded company with a board made up of four women and one man. It hasn’t happened. So effectively it’s one woman, and because you also need two external directors, you also need someone with a financial background, then it always ends up being a woman who is an external director and has a financial background and can chair the office committee.

It’s not enough. One of the things that we have been trying to do is to push for legislation, because there is ample data from around the world showing that the real change only happened when it was mandated by law. And there are three to that. One is a legal requirement to appoint a certain number of women, I believe should be 50%. I’m prepared to start with less and build our way up to 50%, but a legal requirement. The second is a reporting requirement, which doesn’t exist in Israel at this point either. So there is in fact no way to know today in Israel, because a lot of the names are unisex. So if you look at the lists board members of companies traded on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, there is way to know if they are men or women, if they have a unisex name.

You have to pore the list and hope that you know them. Doesn’t make sense. We don’t have a database either. So the second part is a reporting requirement. And the third, of course, is regulatory enforcement. There are regulators, we have a regulator in Israel, the ISA, the Israel Securities Authority, as well as you do in every other country in the world. And it’s very easy to enforce because there are so many other rules that apply public companies. You have the regulation. All you need to do is create [inaudible 00:28:01]. Now the only country in the world that has managed to make a significant change in gender diversity on boards is the UK. The only one, where the 30% club has been more than affected, and in fact has surpassed 30% as I’m sure you know. The UK, I think is a special case because the UK is also one of the very few countries that doesn’t have a constitution, and yet upholds the values of what we would consider to be a democratic constitution of a Western country.

We are sadly not the UK, and we feel that the way to make a significant change in Israel is through legislation. But at the same time, we’re happy very to see that the issue is being picked up by regulators like Israel Securities Authority, by heads of large companies who’ve begun to come out and make statements about the importance of gender diversity. I feel that after a number of years of really banging at doors, we’re finally beginning to be heard, and I’m optimistic with all of these different things happening, we can make a change.

And of course the board level is just the beginning. It’s an easy one to count because it’s something that you can see in report and you have a regulator. The trickier one is the C Suite. When you are looking at senior executives, that’s not reported. That’s very hard to regulate. You can’t really tell a company who to appoint as their chief executive or other certain executives. At the moment, the largest companies in Tel Aviv, we have an index Tel Aviv 125, there are three women CEOs. Embarrassing doesn’t even begin to describe it. So we have a long ways to go on that. And I’ll just mention as a small remark at the end, that for the first time the Israeli government has one third women ministers. Only this current government, that’s less than a year old. So I’m hoping that’s the beginning of the change and not a one off. Parliament, The Knesset, less than 30%. So we’re not there, not anywhere near being there, but the issue is on the table.

Julia: I think the issue is very much on the table. It’s been a fantastic discussion, actually, in terms of exploring it from the talent pipeline, the entrepreneurial point of view, the corporate governance, thinking about the regulatory point of view and also from two different lenses, one being the LBGT+ community, and also the ascension of women onto boards and right the way through senior management levels as well. I just wondered if I could ask you a final question actually, if I may, which is: We are navigating some interesting times, and I worry that the conversation about diversity inclusion arguably could drop down the corporate agenda. It’s wonderful to hear your remarks that actually there is a wind of change. I’m hanging onto that to be positive. But just give us your final remarks to see us after the show about why you argue that diversity inclusion must remain high on the corporate agenda. Jeremy I’m coming to you first.

Jeremy: Thank you very much for the question, and I think at the end of the day, there’s two answers to that one. I think it’s the right thing to do. I think from a social perspective, which is the S of ESG, it makes sense. At the end of the day, as Nava said earlier, it just doesn’t make sense to recruit from 50% of the population. It also doesn’t make sense to off your business or to recruit for your business from one type of person. And I think the more diverse you are the better off you are.

I think ultimately at the end of the day, what that also comes down to is it’s good for business. There’s tonnes of research on that from McKinsey, from the Harvard Business Review, from lots of organisations all around the world that come and prove time and time again that the bottom line is better off for a more diverse and inclusive company, society, et cetera. And I think that’s kind of the most convincing argument as to why we should keep going. Maybe the last thing just to say is that specifically in these transient times when so much is changing in workplace, I think if anything it’s actually a time to be more focused on this, because things are changing so much, that it’s a good time to focus on the people that you’re not necessarily seeing in front of your eyes every day to avoid having an echo chamber.

Julia: And if they’re not compelling reasons, I don’t know what are. Nava, I’m going to turn to you for our last closing remarks on the show. If you would, give us your reasons why diversity and inclusion must remain high on the corporate agenda

Nava: Because Israel won’t survive as a tech powerhouse if it doesn’t access its entire talent pool. It’s really very simple. And in the case of Israel, it is a survival issue because we do not currently have enough people to keep our fantastic ecosystem going and growing, moving forward. And if we are to try and do that, we need all the people we can get. There are a number of other parts of the population that are not currently well represented, but certainly women, with percent of the population, a very small percentage in the tech industry, LGBT+ and other parts of the population.

So it’s a survival issue. It’s not even a nice to have issue. And the fact that it’s now on the agenda is proof of that. And I’ll tell you something, the Israel Innovation Party, which is the government regulator and a government office that funds a lot of the early stage growth of the tech industry, has started producing an annual report on women in IT, because they too have realised that if they don’t access the entire talent in the population, we’re not going to be, and we’re not going to be able to continue to grow because as it is, there’s a big fight for the good talent. And yes, I think it’s nice to have this. I think it’s the right thing to do, but necessity is the mother of invention. So it needs to happen. I hope it will. And thank you so much for this opportunity.

Julia: Well, it’s a pleasure. I should thank you both for what a fantastic conversation. Rigorous, broad, deep in areas. So many more questions. So little time, which is deeply frustrating as a host, but I just want to take a moment to thank you both Jeremy Seeff. Thank you so much for being with us today.

Jeremy: Thank you so much for having me. It was really great and a big honour for me to be involved.

Julia: It’s a pleasure. Nava Swersky-Sofer, thank you for your time.

Nava: Thank you so much, Julia. Thank you Jeremy for the opportunity, and let’s hope for the best.

Julia: It’s been great having you both on. As always, I just want to take a moment to thank our listeners at Divercity Podcast. I hope you’ve enjoyed the episode as much as I have and we look forward to bringing you a new one going soon. Thanks for listening.

Kieron: This episode of Divercity Podcast was produced by me, Kieron Yates on behalf of Julius Streets Productions. Thanks to Cynthia Akinsanya for her insights. You can find out more about the guests on this week’s show on our website, divercitypodcast.com, and that’s diversity with a C, not an S. Whilst you are there, you can also sign up to our newsletter for all our latest updates. All our episodes are available in Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or your favourite podcast app. If you enjoy Divercity Podcast, remember to share on social media and give us a rating or review. It really helps promote the show to a wider audience. Finally, our Twitter handle is @DivercityPod. Thanks for listening.