Thesheer number of news articles and columns on InternationalWomen’s Day seems to highlight women’s woes in Turkey.
To“prove” my point, I downloaded a March 8 newspaper from each of the 71countries in Pressdisplay’snewspaper depository whose language I could (sort of) speak and counted thewomen-related pieces in each- no, I am not a protocol droid like C-3PO, but French and Spanishalone let you cover three continents, and many countries have an English-languagedaily. I then adjusted for the number of pages in each newspaper. With anarticle per page ratio of 1/3, our sister daily Radikal simply blew away thecompetition!
Graphingthese “normalized women’s article” figures against World Economic Forum’s 2011 GlobalGender Gap Report (GGGR) rankings yielded a negative relationship, althoughthere were several outliers like Saudi Arabia: While the country has theprivilege of being one of the handful below Turkey, ranked 122 out of 135 inthe GGGR, there was only one piece in the Saudi Gazette. Maybe, I should havecontrolled for democracy and strength of the press.
Thepapers had so much to write about because it was certainly a busy Women’s Dayin Turkey: In addition to several other events, Sabancı Chairman Güler Sabancıspoke at a U.N.conference on gender equality, Ukrainian activists FEMEN were in Istanbul for their trademarktopless protest, and last but definitely not least, lawmakers passeda bill to curb violence against women.
Infact, with daily Milliyet reporting on the results of a survey and Ankarathink-tank USAK releasing anextensive report on the topic, violence against women was the most popularsubject on Thursday, and for good reason: All the different surveys find thataround 40 percent of Turkish women have been subject to violence. Turkey isnumber nine, among 47 countries, in the wife-beater rankings in theUnitedNations World’s Women 2010 report.
Anotherpopular topic in Thursday’s papers was women’s role in business. While I have writtenabout the low labor force participation rate of Turkish women, Turkey doesnot fare that badly in terms of the ratio of women managers, according to arecent survey from Grant Thornton. Their 31 percent figure seems based onmore institutionalized firms, as the official number is 21 percent, and only 7percent for small businesses. Perhaps this suggests that women’s labor marketissues should be discussed along with the informality and small size of Turkishfirms.
Moreinterestingly, these two seemingly- unrelated women’s problems may beconnected. In a recent note, Istanbul think-tank Betam’sresearchers show that working makes a woman less likely to be subject toviolence, even after controlling for education, spouse’s education and age.
AsGökçe Uysal, one of the authors, explained to me, over woman’sthigh meatballs (the literal translation of a Turkish croquette dish) at Bahçeşehir University, thisis all about outsideoptions. A man is less likely to beat his wife if she has the means toleave him- even if she does not explicitly threaten to do so.
Soby getting women into the labor force, we may be hitting two birds(no pun intended) with one stone.