With women long shut out of positions of power in Turkish society, the World Bank has created a new program to offer its official stamp of approval for businesses in Turkey that strive for gender parity.
ISTANBUL – Though well on its way to becoming a regional model for democratic capitalism, Turkey still faces questions about human rights and certain outmoded ways of doing business. The glaring lack of gender parity in the workplace is a bit of both.
The World Bank estimates that just one-quarter of eligible Turkish women currently work, and many of those do so off the books. In job interviews, women are often asked questions that are never posed to their male counterparts: "Are you married?" or "Do you have any children?" If answered in the affermative, notes World Bank chief Robert Zoellick, "it can be the reason why women, at times, are not hired."
Zoellick was in Istanbul recently, largely to salute the engine of the Turkish economy. But he also took time to ink an unprecedented accord with Gulden Turktan, head of the Women Entrepreneurs Association of Turkey (KAGIDER). Dubbed the "Model of Equal Opportunity," this new World Bank certificate program is aimed at encouraging companies to aim for sexual equality in the workplace. To start with, 11 Turkish companies have applied to recieve the first stage certificate of the project, which aims to create a 100% equal male-female work environment.
Zoellick said that Turkey has shown serious improvement in the fields of female health and education, including the near complete removal of sexual differentiation in primary schools. But improvements are still needed in the work place. "We don't just see this project as a corporate responsibilty project," said Zoellick. "It is also a project that will increase the wealth of this nation."
Gaining a certificate from the World Bank and KAGIDER will be a boost for the brand-name of the companies, especially those doing business abroad. "We hope that in the near future this program will go beyond the borders of Turkey, and become an example for other countries."
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