Being a tree or a woman is tough in this country

Being a tree or a woman is tough in this country

International Women’s Day on March 8 was marked by a photo of three woman presidents of what is known as the bosses’ club, the Turkish Industry and Business Association (TÜSİAD).

The first female president of TÜSİAD, Arzuhan Doğan Yalçındağ, the second female president, Ümit Boyner, and the current president, Cansen Başaran Symes, posing in the same photo frame was indeed a cheer-up for us women.

The three female presidents gave the “We cannot fly with one wing” message; they demanded priority for gender equality from everybody in society from the business world to politics.

At one time, the head of French Medef was Laurence Parisot, the head of Italian Confidustria was Emma Marcegaglia. Today, Emma Marcegaglia is heading the Confederation of European Business.
There are female presidents at TÜSİAD equivalents in Belgium, Croatia and Iceland. However, it is a rare example like the one in Turkey when three female presidents were elected shortly after each other at a prestigious association like TÜSİAD.

Let us not forget that the presidency of TÜSİAD is a “bed of nails” exposed to the frequent criticisms of the government, especially President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

It is a remarkable situation that three women have gone through this ordeal during the Justice and Development Party (AKP) rule.

On the other hand, Turkey is near the top in terms of the number of female CEOs. Many of the female CEOs have climbed the corporate ladder in their family businesses, but at the end of the day, they have used the opportunity well.

Female CEOs heading family companies are not only from mega cities like Istanbul and Ankara. The first names that come to my mind are Şölen Çikolata, growing with Elif Çoban of Gaziantep and Aras Kargo, which grew 65 percent in four years with Evrim Aras of Kars.

Unfortunately, good news about women who make up 49.8 percent of the population is in short supply. Actually, the situation is quite unpleasant. 

One sentence that was shared in social media on the occasion of March 8 was a good summation of the situation of women: “It is very difficult to be a tree and a woman in this country.”

I am wondering this: Is there another country on earth where trees, which are sacrificed by millions to a savage urban transformation and uncontrolled growth, and women are considered almost alike, with the recent increased violence and murders against women? (Some 294 women were murdered in 2014.)  

Let’s take a quick look at the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2014, where Turkey was 125th among 142 countries.

According to Turkish Statistical Institute (TÜİK) data, the rate of female directors in public institutions is 9.4 percent. The rate of illiterate women over 25 is 9.4 percent. The rate of women who work is 26.7 percent.

While the general unemployment rate in Turkey was 9.9 percent in 2014, this rate for women was 11.9 percent.

The figures of the Association for the Support of Women Candidates (KA.DER) are more shocking:

According to their data, out of 535 deputies in parliament, 77 are women. Out of 26 cabinet ministers, only one is a woman; out of 81 governors, two are women; out of 25 undersecretaries, one is a woman; out of metropolitan mayors, three are women; out of the heads of the high courts, only one is a woman and out of the 174 university rectors, only 14 are women.

Well, indeed nobody is expecting the status of women in politics and the bureaucracy to change overnight, nor violence against women.

However, as KA.DER Chair Gönül Karahanoğlu has said, political parties giving more opportunities to female candidates in the June 7 elections could correct this “shame on democracy” to some extent.