Ima Kadima's Nava Shafner
Ima Kadima's Nava Shafner Noam Fiener

A wave of change is taking place in the Israeli workspace, and a lot of it is due to the work of a new NGO that was started by American olim Cori Widen (CEO of road shows) and Nava Shafner. the NGO is called Ima Kadima, which is Hebrew for Onward Moms! The organization, which operates via an online forum as well as by group meetups, supports, educates, and advocates for the rights and equality of a wide spectrum of career-minded mothers in Israel.

The group is united by their professional motivation as well as their need and desire to be fulfilled mothers who are present at home.

“We believe mothers are a tremendous asset to the workforce, and that it is in everyone's best interest to accommodate the needs of families in the workplace,” said Executive Director Naava Shafner.

“Furthermore, we believe it will benefit the economy, the workforce and ultimately the world when mothers are professionally fulfilled, as well as at home.”

But the organization is not what you might think. While it is comprised of working moms in throughout the country, mainly Anglos, it is advocating equality in the workplace for both mothers and fathers simultaneously.

Shafner spoke to Arutz Sheva about the driving philosophy behind the organization.

“It is important to have equal rights in the workplace across the board, and we need to have family-friendly workplaces and not just mother-friendly workplaces. When we say family-friendly we mean for fathers as well. Helping fathers take on some of the burden of childcare actually helps mothers in their workplaces, and eases tensions on the family, which in turn makes for a better society,” Shafner explained.

“If the burden of having a career and being successful at home is placed solely on one person it is too much, and cause a degradation for both spouses in their work, and at home.”

Shafner explained that there is a concept of ‘mommy-tracking” which occurs to women who look for mother friendly jobs, but then are unable to obtain promotions or higher level positions because they are looked at as being unreliable due to their need to leave early on a constant basis.

“We don’t want people or companies to be mommy-tracked. The entire idea that only the mother can care for the children in the family is based on gender stereotyping.”

On Monday night the group held a meetup event in Jerusalem’s Talpiyot neighborhood that hosted over 60 mothers at PICO, a shared workspace often used by the organization.

According to Shafner, Ima Kadima “is working on policy collaboration with major organizations, the government as well as the city of Jerusalem to make businesses and companies more gender equal.”  She says that a lot of the problems are based on perception. “When we frame things as a mother-friendly job or workplace it doesn’t help women. A better way to frame the workplace would be as a family-friendly workplace. That would include the men as well, and see to their needs in the family as equal caregivers, and it would thus likewise empower women.”

The organization, which boasts 2500 members and is only eighteen months old, has already made waves in the political sphere in Israel at the end of November, as MK Rachel Azaria (Kulanu) - who spoke at the first meetup that Ima Kadima held - successfully pushed a bill at the Ministerial Committee, making changes to the current laws regarding the understanding and terminology of Maternity Leave and Maternity hour in Israel to family hour and parental leave.

Another of the organization's flagship programs is called bragging Wednesdays. This online program encourages women in the forum to brag about their successes in the workplace. “The empowerment that the women receive from one another is really inspiring,” says Shafner.  

“It is really amazing to see that since the group was formed, the tone of the group has changed dramatically, from a place of dependence to a place of strength and initiative taking. Women have taken strength from the group and begun to change their attitude and perspective about themselves, and begun to operate from a position of strength.”

Ima Kadima is aware of both the challenges and triumphs of combining motherhood with career ambition. According to the organization’s website they “provide practical solutions and inspiration for career-minded moms.”