Motherhood as a career: The real glass ceiling in Turkey

Motherhood as a career: The real glass ceiling in Turkey

Beyond all the political and religious debates about Charlie Hebdo and the politics of Islam, there lies the harsh reality of family life and a woman’s role in society. As the West becomes more secular and women opt to become working mothers, Turkey is turning quite the opposite way.

First the health minister, then the prime minister of Turkey, stressed the need for women to bear children. Their worries are not unfounded. The Justice and Development Party’s (AK Party) fundamental policy of moving masses from villages to the big cities has had one humongous side effect: Women have to work. A big city is no place for single-income families with mid-level education. Even with master’s degrees, you may not be able to find a proper job or stay in a job in Istanbul.

So comes the dilemma. Should a successful woman in her late 30s or early 40s risk losing her job to be a mother? With the money the government recently announced that it would pay, you really must be joking. The so-called “family aid” or “baby support” can hardly pay for a good helper or cover the expenses of a baby. If you prefer to raise your kid yourself, there will be very little chance that you can go back to your old job after six months of paid leave. Your career will likely take a downturn if you do not know the powerful people in high places who can offer you that plush comfortable corner office.

On the flipside, your supervisor will send you to the hardest and oddest jobs if you are not married.

Your HR department will treat you as if you are a burden on the company. There will be very little opportunity for you to get a promotion because in Turkey if you have not been able to manage “a home,” how can you even dare to manage a company? Singledom will become a burden and almost a torture in the workplace as your male bosses will think you have no private life at all. They will call you at the weirdest hours, make you work on weekends and practically kill all your possibilities of enjoying life.

Your company will NEVER provide childcare or kindergarten. Why should they? If you resign to take care of your baby, they could probably hire three young people with that salary, get rid of the severance payments and boost the country’s employment numbers. All in one fell swoop. It’s better than they can imagine.

The AK Party’s push to increase the birth rate unfortunately has one troubled point. Families with higher incomes that should have more children have doubts about the future of the country. The health and education system is not as good as it was projected five years ago. Religious education, conservatism, financial insecurity and a lack of social harmony are all hurting the bedrooms, as well as the streets. Those who dare to become bigger families are looking for ways to escape the country and live in Europe or the United States, simply because of a better public education and health system.

Motherhood is not a career. It a priceless joy until your last breath. It cannot be bought or sold. Nor can it be subsidized or become tax-exempt. If you need more working mothers in the society, lift the glass ceilings in the minds and corporations first.