More women at Turkish Exporters Assembly

More women at Turkish Exporters Assembly

A photograph of the Turkish Exporters Assembly (TİM) that was taken not long ago appeared in some newspapers recently. There was only one woman among many men, and only half of her face was seen in the picture. The photograph that led to a lot of reaction at the time had reminded us of a reality: There were no female members in the unions and boards within TİM.

The president of TİM at the time, Mehmet Büyükekşi, had said there were no obstacles in front of women, but that as unions did not nominate woman members, they could not include them in the executive board.

TİM recently went through an election period. Büyükekşi, who has been sitting on that seat for 12 years, left the position due to the rule that limits any president’s term to two periods. İsmail Gülle was elected as the new president. And a first has taken place in TİM under the presidency of Gülle: Women started being prioritized in the executive positions.

There are finally women in TİM’s photographs, as the number of women on the boards of the assembly rose from 35 to 52. And while there were no unions headed by a woman, now there are three women heading the unions.

One of them is Melisa Tokgöz Mutlu, who was also elected to the executive board of TİM. “We changed the picture a little bit. Now women are our priority,” said Gülle.

Mutlu was elected to head the Exporters Union of Fresh Fruits and Vegetables. Pınar Taşdelen Engin was elected to the Uludağ Exporters Union of Textile, and Huriye Yamanyılmaz became the president of the Mediterranean Union of Aquatic products.

Mutlu competed and entered the councils of 27 sectors. And with the encouragement of Gülle, Mutlu was elected to TİM’s executive board.

“Having women on the executive branches is a new approach, a new vision. From now on our priority is to encourage women and the youth. We want to increase the number of female exporters,” said Gülle.

The current numbers are still low. But as a woman journalist who had criticized the earlier unfortunate photograph of TİM it is also my duty to make public the steps that have been taken to change that picture and encourage further progress.

Positive discrimination is a must

It requires a serious struggle to overcome the barriers and enter male-dominant business associations.

“I am a lucky woman,” said Mutlu. She said she has been preparing to head one of the unions in TİM for a long time and that she received the biggest support from former President Latif Ünal and executive board members.

“I am lucky because as a woman I saw support, rather than obstruction. They have always opened the way in front of me,” she said of her male colleagues.

There are indeed barriers in front of the women, but women also create their own barriers, according to Mutlu.

“Women cannot come to these positions without fighting for it. There is no equality. That’s why positive discrimination is a must. But women make mistakes as well. Women give up the fight very early and go back to their home. There were three women in the sectorial board when I started; two of them gave up.”

Women should not only work hard to get to executive positions but should clearly state that they do want these positions as well.

jale özgentürk, Turkish economy, Turkish Exporters' Association