Bring mothers back to work

Bring mothers back to work

Who would have thought that a barely known car-seat producer from the Central Anatolian province of Kütahya would make it to the top 10 list of best practices in terms of women’s employment in Turkey? Above and beyond the frenzy of all things politics, it is truly refreshing to hear stories of success and encouragement, and the International Finance Corporation has just provided that.

The IFC has launched a report outlining the private sector’s aid to female workers when they need childcare. The report found that companies who provide childcare support are able to boost the retention of working mothers and fathers in their workforce and positively impact their businesses. In fact, they learned that it was smart business.

Sammar Essmat, the IFC’s gender and private sector specialist in charge of Europe, Central Asia, Middle East and North Africa, said their focus in Turkey switched slightly from women entrepreneurs to bringing mothers back to work.

“The share of men who are working is about 76 percent in Turkey; women, on the other hand, make up only 36 percent. The World Bank study tells us if Turkey closes that gender gap and brings the level of working women from 36 percent to 70, you are able to benefit from an increase of 22 percent in your Gross National Income to Turkey,” said Essmat. “So providing childcare for working mothers and fathers is not a ‘women’s issue,’ it is a very important economic and business issue, especially for Turkey,” she added.

The IFC report looked into 10 companies from Japan to Jordan and from China to Brazil in terms of the support they provide to bring their women workers back into the workforce. From Turkey, two companies made it to the top 10 best practices list. Borusan Holding is one of them. According to the report, from 2014 to 2015, 92 women at Borusan took maternity leave. Of these, more than 80 percent returned to work after their maternity leave and remained there for at least 12 months.

But a more surprising story emerged from the heartland of Anatolia. Martur, a car seat factory in Kütahya, a relatively conservative city, not only managed to encourage women to work but also successfully brought them back after they took maternity leave. “Women were so good at producing car seats that Martur decided to hire women from the textile industry. But trouble emerged when they earned money, got married and decided to have children,” said Essmat.

Essmat then told me that the company acknowledged the fact that women leaving their jobs became an economic problem for the company. “So the managers and owners decided to tackle the problem head on. They offered childcare-related benefits and reduced staff turnover by about 15 percent. This reduced absenteeism, from 4.15 percent to 1.9 percent. This was a very gender-equal company,” she said.

Still, Turkish businesses are a bit shy in terms of bringing mothers back to work. They are practically finding all the loopholes, avoiding penalties and preferring to fire women and hiring men instead. Essmat agrees and says that companies should see childcare not as a “cost center” but as a “profit center” in the long-run.

“You can do a vast range of things to provide childcare to your workers. All the way from setting up kindergartens in your factory or business to giving extra financial help, a subsidy for daycare,” Essmat added. The sooner, the better. Bring more mommies back to the workforce!

ahu özyurt, hdn, Opinion,