Turkish women still can’t break the glass ceiling

Turkish women still can’t break the glass ceiling

ANKARA – Anadolu Agency
Turkish women still can’t break the glass ceiling

AA Photo

Women make up only 30 percent of Turkey’s labor force, according to a new report from the Turkish Statistical Institute (TÜİK) released on March 5.

The employment rate for women in Turkey is 27.1 percent, while it is 65.2 percent for men, according to TÜİK. Compared to European countries, this rate is well below that of Sweden at 72.5 percent and even lower than that of Greece at 39.9 percent.

Meanwhile, there are also very few women in top management, only 12.2 percent according to the most recent statistics from the Geneva-based International Labor Office (ILO). Turkey is ranked 45 out of 48 countries in ILO research for the percentage of women in high-level corporate positions - below Thailand and above Ukraine.

“The perception of women must change. Woman should be seen first as individuals rather than as ‘ideal mothers’ or ‘wives.’ Our country must change its mentality, starting with gender equality training,” Confederation of Turkish Trade Unions (TÜRK-İŞ) head Ergun Atalay told Anadolu Agency.

In Turkey, the proportion of female senior managers is 9.4 percent in the public sector. The proportion of female judges is 36.9 percent, while the proportion of females in academic staff was 28.7 percent in the 2013-2014 academic year. The proportion of female police officers has shown little difference over the years, and stood at 5.5 percent in 2014, according to TÜİK.

Education a great challenge

Lack of education is one of the biggest challenges to women’s workforce participation rising, experts say.

“The main reason for the low number of women working is the low level of women’s education,” said Müjdat Keçeci, the president of the Chamber of Industry in Denizli, a booming industrial city in southwestern Turkey where the female labor force participation rate is one of the highest in the country.

“The higher the level of education, the more likely women are to work,” Keçeci added.   
The illiterate female population is five times larger than the illiterate male population, according to TÜİK.

While the proportion of high school and equivalent graduates in the 25-and-over cohort is 18.2 percent, this proportion is 22.2 percent for males and 14.4 percent for females. The proportion of total higher education graduates is 12.9 percent for the entire population - 15.1 percent for men and 10.7 percent for women.

Low wages, rigid structures

Güven Sak, the director of the Economic Policy Research Foundation of Turkey (TEPAV) and a Hürriyet Daily News columnist, said the generally low level of women’s wages also kept them out of the workplace.

“If the wage rate is low, women have less incentive to leave domestic chores to outside help. Hiring help for household chores and childcare is almost impossible at lower wages. Add that to Turkey’s haphazard social support system and all women are left with is taking care of the household,” Sak said.
This issue is particularly aggravated in the countryside, according to Keçeci.

Another difficulty that many women must overcome is the rigidity of working hours.

TÜRK-İŞ head Atalay suggested that allowing women to work with flexible working hours would solve this problem.

“With flexible working hours, women can work to contribute to the family budget as well as do their child care and household chores. Society must work towards changing negative perceptions about women,” he said.

Some perceptions in Turkey about the role of women do seem to be changing. According to the results of Demographic and Health Survey 2013, 75.2 percent of women agreed with the statement that “men should also do housework such as cooking, washing, ironing, and cleaning,” while 75 percent of women agreed with the statement that “women should be more involved in politics.”