Turkish women still can't break the glass ceiling

Although 30 percent of the labor force is female, low wages and inability to grow in the workplace daunts women.

Turkish women still can't break the glass ceiling

World Bulletin / News Desk

Women have made great strides into Turkey's workforce over the past 50 years, but relatively few work, and only a few break the glass ceiling.

Women, who constitute almost exactly half of Turkey's population, make up only 30 percent of labor force participation, according to a report from the Turkish Statistical Institute on Thursday.

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

"The perception on women must change. Woman should be seen first as individuals rather than first  as ‘ideal mother’ and ‘wife.’ Our country must change its mentality, starting with gender equality training," Confederation of Turkish Trade Unions head Ergun Atalay told The Anadolu Agency.

With the employment rate at 45.9 percent in Turkey, for men it stood at 65.2 percent and for women at 27.1 percent, the TurkStat report said. Compared with European countries, the rate is well below that of Sweden at 72.5 percent and even lower than that of Greece at 39.9 percent. 

In Turkey, the proportion of female senior managers is 9.4 percent in the public area. The proportion of female judges was 36.9 percent. The proportion of females in total academic staff was 28.7 percent in the 2013-2014 academic year. The proportion of female police officers has not shown a difference over the years, and the proportion was 5.5% in 2014, TurkStat said.

-Education is a great challenge

Lack of education is one of the greatest challenges to women in the workplace, experts said.

"The main reason for the small number of women working is the low level of women’s education," said Mujdat Kececi, president of the Chamber of Industry in Denizli, which is a growing industrial city in the southwestern part of Turkey and 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," he said. 

The illiterate female population is five times larger than the illiterate male population, according to TurkStat. 

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 of the entire population, but this proportion is 15.1 percent for men and 10.7 percent for women.

Low wages, rigid structures

Guven Sak, director at the Economic Policy Research Foundation of Turkey, says the low level of women’s wages keeps them out of the workplace.

"If the wage rate is low, women have less incentive to leave domestic chores to outside help. Hiring some help for household chores and childcare is almost impossible at lower wages. Add to that 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. 

"The culture or belief that women do not work is very common in the countryside. If you add less women-friendly environments at workplaces, the rate will remain low," Kececi added.

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

Atalay pointed out that it 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 Atalay said.  

But some perceptions about the role of women are changing. According to the results of Demographic and Health Survey 2013, 75.2 percent of females agreed with the statement of “men should also do the housework like cooking, washing, ironing, and cleaning," Seventy-five percent of women agreed with the statement, "women should be more involved in politics."

Güncelleme Tarihi: 05 Mart 2015, 15:53