Click on the Persona website and you’ll see 700 smiling faces of accomplished Israeli women qualified to take the stage at conferences where men’s faces are more the norm. The constantly growing list includes women such as journalist and author Lihi Lapid, cyber expert Michal Leshem and entrepreneur/branding expert Keren Alouf.

Hana Rado’s face is there, too. After all, Persona is her project.

Rado is chief operating officer of the Tel Aviv branch of global advertising agency McCann, and founder-chairman of its McCann Valley digital advertising enterprise in the Negev town of Mitzpeh Ramon. When she was invited to speak about women in advertising at a conference earlier this year, she discovered to her dismay that of 220 scheduled presenters, only 22 were female.

Conference organizers she approached across Israel confirmed that few women are included in professional panels, so she and five cofounders launched the Persona database on March 8, International Women’s Day.

“I am not one to sit on the fence when I see a problem to be solved,” is Rado’s motto.

Persona pioneer Hana Rado. Photo courtesy
Persona pioneer Hana Rado. Photo courtesy

Persona’s goal goes beyond speaker panels. Rado, who has an MBA from Tel Aviv University and has given TEDx lectures on social entrepreneurship and gender equality, wants to help achieve 50 percent representation for women in Israeli corporations, academia and government.

Currently, 28 of the Knesset’s 120 parliamentarians are women, and there are just three women among 21 cabinet ministers.

In addition, Persona advocates against conferences where women are underrepresented, and runs a Facebook and radio campaign to raise awareness about the gender gap. That gap is most obvious in senior positions.

“I know how difficult it is to get to the top, especially when you’re working long hours and raising a family,” says Rado, who often put in 12-hour days when her kids were young. “I know how much you have to invest to get there.”

‘They must be heard’

The 56-year-old mother of three tells ISRAEL21c that her goal is to promote gender equality and women’s presence in influential decision-making bodies throughout Israel.

“This is important for many reasons; I will give you five,” Rado says.

“Because women comprise 50.9 percent of Israeli society and unfortunately their voice remains unheard.

“Because research suggests that companies with female executives achieve higher financial performance.

“Because any panel on relevant issues without women misrepresents Israeli society.

“Because women contribute to organizational diversity in leadership, conflict resolution, points of view, management issues and innovation.

“Because there are thousands of women in Israel with very good track records and vital knowledge to benefit Israel as a whole, and they should and must be heard.”

Some of her other reasons are stated in a recent article about Persona in Fortune magazine.

Rado is so passionate about Persona that she turned it into a registered company. Her cofounders and board members are Galit Diamant, Karin Shor, Dalit Laufer, Ruti Arazi and Magi Ezer.

“McCann supported us when we launched, for which I am very grateful. Today Persona is owned by me and I will be financing all future projects on our agenda until we find sponsors,” Rado says.

Going beyond Israel

What started as a tool for conference organizers is fast becoming a social movement with global appeal.

Harbeen Arora, founder-chairperson of the India-based All Ladies League (ALL) international women’s chamber, and chancellor of Rai University in Gujarat, asked to meet with Rado on an upcoming trip to Israel to discuss Rado’s possible participation in a major ALL conference in India.

Rado describes Persona as a network of strong women. “The Persona profile is a woman with a management and or entrepreneurship track record, along with public-speaking experience. Each woman approved by our committee receives her own page with her educational and professional background, an ‘I believe’ statement, a short description of issues she would like to address, links to her social media and contact information.”

The database continues to grow as each “Persona” is encouraged to recommend another “Persona” within her professional circles. A closed group, PersoNATION, provides a forum where members of the Persona community can exchange information and ideas.

“Many women wish to join the database and see eye-to-eye with our agenda,” says Rado. “We see that Personas are contacted via our website for business opportunities and we feel an inspiring buzz.”