Turkey outperforms EU in women’s participation in science
Önder Öndeş – ISTANBUL
The ratio of Turkish women to men in the areas of science, technology, engineering, health, and research and development has surpassed that of the European Union’s, according to figures released on Feb. 11 by Eurostat, the statistical office of the union in Luxembourg.
In 2017, of almost 951,000 scientists and engineers in Turkey, 55 percent were men and 45 percent women. Turkish women moved closer toward closing the gender gap in science- and technology-related fields over the last 10 years as they were represented in these sectors respectively by 33.43 percent and 44.79 in 2008 and 2016.
In 2017, of almost 18 million scientists and engineers in the European Union, 59 percent were men and 41 percent women. In six EU countries, the majority of scientists and engineers were women: Lithuania (56.54 percent female), Norway (53.84 percent), Bulgaria (53.40 percent), Latvia (53.08 percent), Portugal (51.35 percent) and Denmark (50.43 percent).
Turkey ranked 15th among the 33 European countries on the list, whereas at the bottom of the ranking were Hungary and Luxembourg (both 25.48 percent), Finland (28.67percent), Switzerland (32.72 percent), as well as Germany (32.87 percent).
Gülsün Sağlamer, the first woman rector of Istanbul Technical University and the current president of the European Women Rectors Association, told daily Hürriyet that Turkey was well “ahead” of the EU in terms of the number of women in science- and engineering-related sectors, but the EU was “trying to close its gap with big incentives” regarding this issue.
“The Republic of Turkey, since the day it was founded, has been paving the way for women to take their place in technical and engineering fields. In this way, we are very ahead of Europe. Not only in Turkey, but in many universities across the world such as the U.S., you can see many women students from Turkey. But Europe is aware of this gap and is trying to close the gap with big incentives,” she said.
Despite its relatively good situation in the number of female scientists and engineers, Turkey should still work hard to increase this ratio further, according to Sağlamer. “While European countries are taking big steps, we should not stay where we are. The number of women in Turkey especially in decision-making positions is very low. While in Sweden, one in every two rectors is a woman, in Turkey this figure is only 8 percent. Measures to increase the representation of women in this area should also be taken,” she said.
Esra Gençtürk, the rector of the Istanbul-based Özyeğin University, told Hürriyet that the percentage of female academics in Turkey currently stands at 45 percent, an increase of almost 50 percent compared to 30 years ago.
“Especially the number of [Turkish female] assistant professors and research assistants is higher compared to the other [academic] positions. This increase [of the percentage of Turkish women academics] is above the average of European countries. That [founder of modern Turkey Mustafa Kemal] Atatürk, in the first years of the Republic as the ‘Head Teacher,’ ran policies that gave women in academia and civil sectors equal rights [as men] and the efforts of the first universities [established in Turkey] to take in female students have an important effect on us coming so far today,” she said.