Citizen Today: women in leadership

Talking Turkey

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As the solitary woman in Turkey’s Government, Fatma Sahin is well placed to comment on the country’s progress toward greater gender equality. With the country’s economic growth accelerating, are Turkey’s women also poised for a similar surge forward?

Having overcome a series of political and economic challenges, the country is now enjoying stable economic growth. Its economy is set to grow at least 5% each year for the next 25 years, according to our Rapid-Growth Markets Forecast.

But has this economic progress been mirrored by advances in the area of gender diversity? It doesn’t appear so. Our Worldwide Index of Women as Public Sector Leaders found that just 13.6% of its public sector leaders are women.

The World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2011 ranked Turkey 122 out of 135 countries, second to the bottom in the category of upper-middle income countries.

Sahin, Minister for Family and Social Policies since 2001, prefers to focus on what she predicts will be a more positive future.

“Take the proportion of women who hold upper management positions, for example, which varies among countries. The world average is 8%, with 9% for the EU, 5% for the US, but it’s 12% in Turkey.”

While the share of women in Turkey’s public sector workforce is around 37%, their representation in leadership positions is much lower, indicating that women are prone to stay in the lower-level jobs and cannot successfully break through to higher ranks.

To make it easier for women to make better progress in terms of their careers, Sahin says women need more networks to help support themselves moving forward.

She lauds the contribution of education to addressing the gender divide. “Better education opportunities will encourage women to be more involved in the professional world.”  Sahin also talks of a project to provide day care centers for working mothers.

Looking and learning from examples across borders is another important aspect of driving transformational change. Sahin cites the example of a project that was recently unveiled at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

With co-chairmen Güler Sabanci and Ferit Şahenk, two prominent business leaders in Turkey, the three-year project aims to increase the participation of women in business and to reduce the gender gap in economic contribution to at least a level of 10%.

Sahin believes that positive discrimination in favor of women would entrench and accelerate the gains already made.

“For the first time in the history of Turkey, women are represented with a rate of 14% in Parliament. I firmly believe that this rate will go higher because we are a strong team under a strong leadership. We only can achieve our ambitions for Turkey through teamwork.”