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Prof. Rivka Carmi Is Breaking Israel’s Glass Ceiling

Prof. Rivka Carmi Is Breaking Israel’s Glass Ceiling

December 3, 2018

Leadership, Awards & Events

Moment – In 2006, Prof. Rivka Carmi became the president of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU), making her the first woman to serve as the president of an Israeli university. Prior to this, Prof. Carmi, a pediatrician and geneticist, was the first woman dean of BGU’s Joyce and Irving Goldman Medical School. She was also the first woman to chair Israel’s Committee of University Presidents.

Prof. Rivka Carmi

Prof. Carmi, now 70, chose to be a scientist after a high school teacher told her mother that she could study either science or humanities, but that humanities would be much easier. Then and there, she decided to study science. In a class of 22 students, she was one of only two girls.

After medical school, she completed a residency in pediatrics, a fellowship in neonatology and then an additional fellowship in medical genetics at Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard University Medical School. Her work has focused on the clinical manifestations and molecular basis of genetic diseases in the Negev Arab-Bedouin population. Her research has led to the identification of 12 new genes and the delineation of three new syndromes.

She developed a feminist consciousness during her pediatric residency. Until then, she recalls in a TEDx talk at BGU in March of 2018, “I didn’t even know what feminism was all about.” But then she realized that women were being denied promotions and other opportunities. When she complained to the chairman of the academic promotion committee, he warned her, “You are a promising young faculty member; don’t let your feminism ruin your career.”

During her tenure at BGU, which comes to an end in late 2018, and especially during her term as the head of the Committee of University Presidents, Prof. Carmi put the advancement and promotion of women in higher education high on the public agenda.

As a result of her efforts, every Israeli university’s operating budget includes an item dedicated to the advancement and promotion of women. She has said, “If you are a woman who has made it to the top, you have to be totally committed to the cause of women’s equality, and you must, on top of all the obligations and worries that come with the job, constantly work to pave the way, by any means possible, for your fellow women.”

Read about the other five trailblazers on the Moment magazine website >>