More female CEOs in Turkey

More female CEOs in Turkey

What first comes to mind when defining Turkey? I suppose it must be the duality of the country. The uninitiated will struggle to identify the country after traveling to Istanbul then Diyarbakır. The sets of economic capabilities also change radically, becoming less sophisticated as one goes southeast from Istanbul. There are more female CEOs in one part of Turkey while the female labor force participation rate hits its low point in another part. These two halves of the country used to live far apart but have been seeing more of each other through internal migration.

Some might see that as a bad thing, but I feel that this convergence is teaching us to live with each other and strengthening Turkish democracy.

Let me start with the female labor force participation rate (FLFPR). It’s low in Turkey. Our average FLFPR is below 30 percent, while that of the EU is above 60 percent. Yet when it comes to female CEOs, there is a radical shift in the numbers. In Turkey, the rate of female CEOs is 12 percent while that of the EU is around 3 percent. Hence, while women in Turkey do not participate in the labor force in numbers commensurate to their peers in the EU, they also tend to manage companies more.
First, we should think about which companies we are talking about here. Think of the companies around Turkey’s old industrial centers. These are all well-connected to the European market, established in Istanbul, İzmir and Ankara. This is not the reality of the growing companies in the new industrial centers of Anatolia, Konya, Gaziantep and Kayseri. I was talking to an entrepreneur friend of mine from Konya, who said his company started recruiting women only very recently to cope with the growing labor shortage in his town. So his company only considered women when there were no men left. Forget female CEOs, employing women alone is a new phenomenon for the companies of Turkey’s new industrial centers.

But slow change doesn’t mean no change at all. Since 2004, the share of female workers in the labor force has been increasing all across Anatolia. The economic transformation that comes from opening to the world market has brought social transformation with it. We might have a low FLFPR, but at least it’s on the rise.

The transformation process started with the centers more closely connected to Europe’s markets. These close relations have led to the improvement of the economic capability sets of these provinces. When education and income barriers are passed, women tend to be more active as employers. This means that there is nothing inherently wrong with the behavior of Turkey’s labor market.

Here is new food for thought for you. Maybe the high rate of female CEOs in Turkey is directly related to the lack of educated males. The two genders are more equal among the small number of educated people. That is why we have a surprisingly high number of women CEOs.