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Being a Woman in the Business World

"Sexism often comes with a smile." - Rachel Feltman


White woman: All women are under the same pressure in the face of patriarchy. That's why all women have some kind of intuitive solidarity or fraternity.

Black woman: I'm not so sure. I want to ask you a question: What do you see in the mirror when you wake up in the morning?

White woman: I see a woman.

Black woman: You see, that's the problem for me. Because when I wake up in the morning and look in the mirror, I see a black woman. To me, race is something visible, but to you race is invisible. You can't see. That's how privilege works.

Privilege is invisible to those who have it. Not thinking about our race is a luxury. Not thinking about other privileges, we have is also a luxury. Gender can only be eliminated by people rethinking when they look in the mirror and see themselves as only human in the patriarchal order. Only in this way can equality of rights be realized.

The Second Sex

“I thought two people were coming across the street but I soon realized it was only a man and his wife.” Russian proverb

By analyzing women in sociocultural and psychological contexts, Simon de Beauvoir laid one of the most important foundations of modern feminist theory. Beauvoir presents the patterns of femininity and masculinity through non-overlapping oppositions in all societies. The masculine is associated with culture and the feminine with nature. There is a hierarchical structure between these two areas, which are interrelated. The dominance of culture over nature makes men dominate women. In a patriarchal culture, the male or the masculine is constructed as positive or the norm, while the female or femineity is positioned as negative, non-essential, abnormal, that is, the "other". This is what Simone de Beauvoir means when she defines woman as "the second sex".

Throughout history, the social roles of women and men have undergone various changes. Between 600 BC and 1300 AD with the rise of agricultural culture, women became the commodity of trade, and they began to lose their rights and freedoms with enslavement. In the feudal period from the 1300s to 1700s, it is seen that men and women worked together in their homes and in their fields. In other words, there is no organized division of labor for gender in these years.

With industrialization and urbanization in the 1700s, we can see the rise of the concept of the gendered division of labor. In this period, while the men who were forced to leave their homes and work in big cities were generating income, women became "housewives" who prepared their families for working life. With the French Revolution that took place at the end of the 18th century, ideas criticizing social rights inequalities began to emerge. The political foundations of modern feminism were laid with the egalitarian and libertarian thought that had the opportunity to sprout thanks to the enlightenment. Mary Wollstonecraft's book " A Vindication of the Rights of Woman " is one of the earliest works of feminist philosophy. In her book, Wollstonecraft invites women to go out of their homes to study, to gain their own financial freedom, in short, to pursue their own rights and freedoms.

Employment of Women in Turkey

In 2015, 49.8% of Turkey's population was female. The rate of the illiterate female population in the total population is 5 times higher than that of males. In 2015, the proportion of men in total employment was twice that of women. While the labor force participation rate of educated women is recorded as higher, women earned less than men at all education levels. The rate of senior female managers did not change compared to the previous year and remained at 9.4%. When we examine the number of women in politics, the rate of female deputies in the Turkish Grand National Assembly increased from 4.5% to 14.7% in the 80-year period from 1935 to 2015. Looking at country comparisons, the countries with the highest rate of female MPs in Europe in 2014 are Sweden at 45% and Finland at 42.5%. The number of ministers in Turkey was 27 in 2015 and only 7.4% of the ministers were women. Looking at country comparisons, the countries with the highest ratio of female ministers in Europe in 2013 were Sweden at 54.2% and Norway at 50%. (TUIK, 2016).

Gender Inequality in Professional Life

According to the Gender Gap Report published by the World Economic Forum in 2015, the salary of a man and a woman doing the same job will be equal in 2133, 111 years from now. 

In today's professional life, the search for rights on income inequalities is increasing with the rising awareness. However, men earn more than women. Iceland, Norway, and Finland are in the top three among the list of countries that ensures equality between women and men; Syria, Pakistan, and Yemen are at the bottom of the list. Turkey is 130th among 145 countries. Mexico ranks 71st, Brazil 85th, and the United Arab Emirates 119th in the survey. In Turkey, a woman doing the same job as a man earns about $80 while the man earns $100. Alongside the inequalities in salaries, there are also gender-based hirings, assignments, and promotions that progress systematically.

We asked women: What type of sexism do you encounter most often?

Our question, which we asked through our social media accounts, reached over ten thousand views and hundreds of women. In this section, which we placed at the heart of our report, we traced the most common types of sexism in dozens of stories shared with us sincerely through comments. 

In the vast majority of the answers we received, mansplaining came first., Mansplaining, in other words; is the assumption that women need a masculine opinion on any subject. In meetings or dialogues, women mostly complain about being interrupted and men underestimating their knowledge on a subject. In the stories they share, women also refer to plagiarism in connection with masculinity. As a situation often encountered in creative processes, idea theft occurs when men's ideas are approved more quickly and easily than women's.

Protectionist sexism comes second. We would like to explain protectionist sexism by quoting a true story shared with us: “We were having a celebration at the company at lunch. Wraps were ordered for the celebration. When the orders came, we saw that they were plain for women and spicy for men.” Protectionist sexism, which arises from the assumption that a woman is sensitive and needs the protection of a man, is a form of sexism.  Other examples of this form of sexism can be serving wine directly to men for tasting in restaurants, usually bringing the bill to men, maternity leave, opening or holding doors for courtesy purposes.

In the third place are comments made on appearance or tone of voice. Women suffer from warnings from their managers that they should dress “less conservatively” or “fancier”, being forced to spend more time on their appearance than a man, change their tone of voice or physical reactions. Women are also regularly mistaken for being ill when they don't wear make-up.

Other responses focus on income and rights imbalances between men and women and the restriction of women's rights for gender-related reasons. These imbalances arise in unfair and unequal promotion systems, where men with the same qualifications who are doing the same job earn more than women. Among the restrictions, there are examples of men being hired over women due to maternity leave and marriage. While men with children do not have problems finding a job, women are automatically given the responsibility of childcare and therefore not get hired.

We would like to thank all our participants who contributed to our report with their comments and support.

“In a case in the United States, a senior executive woman working in a company was presented with not being sufficiently feminine enough as a reason for not being promoted. In the face of this situation, the woman who fought for her rights sued her employer and won the case. As a result of the lawsuit, the woman manager became a partner of the company and was compensated for the losses she had experienced in the process.”

In the business world, men’s leadership is generally accepted more easily and more quickly than women’s. While egalitarian decision-making processes are perceived as feminine leadership, women who do not have this characteristic are perceived as “bossy” and “pushy”, unlike their male peers. “Interrupting” and “resisting” when new ideas are presented are more common in men than in women.

Our unconscious mind reacts more easily to women compared to men for the same behaviors. While the majority of women attribute their success to different factors (success of the team, luck, conditions), men often attribute their success to themselves.

“I took notes on comments made by my 62-year-old female boss with her 70-year-old male boss about women who came to a job interview: ‘She laughs a lot ‘Femme Fatale’, ‘She is a sweet and attractive girl, but she doesn't sound logical’”

Answering the phones, arranging meetings, and doing secretarial work such as paperwork are among the job roles assigned to women almost everywhere in the world. Women are usually responsible for taking notes at meetings.  We see women's labor in the service of coffee, soda, and other beverages in the office environment. Women also carry out the mentoring of newly recruited young employees and the workforce support provided to them. Women are generally appointed as the chair of unpaid committees. If women do not want this task, they are described as selfish while in the case of men, they are viewed as having busy schedules. On the other hand, office parties, events, and planning tasks are also given to women, and the food planning of these activities is also expected from them.

“When I started my internship, my boss told me to work in the tabloid press. Another male trainee with whom I started together was assigned by our boss to sports news.”

Physical and/or verbal sexual harassment is among the cases that are frequently encountered in work environments and are mostly ignored and hidden. Especially, women who have been sexually harassed by their managers often feel lonely and hesitate to seek their rights. For women exposed to this, depression, a decline in productivity, unhappiness, and resignation are extremely likely. The reasons behind the sudden resignation of women who have decided to quit their jobs should be well analyzed.

“I was 24 years old. I used to work at a publisher that published popular art books. While I was eating cookies at my desk for lunch, my manager approached and said, ‘Be careful, the boss doesn't like fat girls.’” 

Parental leave is a type of leave that is not granted equally to men and women. Maternity leave, which refers to a woman by name, is six months for women and varies from five to ten days for men, depending on their duties, as per the law in Turkey. For working men and women to benefit from equal opportunities in their careers, it is necessary to equalize parental leave and to divide the labour for childcare.

Sexist Tone is All Around Us

Depending on the norms accepted and dominated by society, the gender roles of that society are established. It is necessary to draw attention to the existence of various mechanisms that hold these norms together and then affect individual behavior. One of the most important of these mechanisms is language. Language has great importance in shaping thought. From the first moment we start talking, language becomes a determining power over us. When we think based on this idea, we can easily see how Turkish differently defines men and women. and how this affects our thinking.

When we examine the language of mainstream media organs, we can often come across male-dominated sexist discourse and fiction. When mainstream newspapers in Turkey are examined, the image of a woman oscillates between a victim identity exposed to violence and an identity whose sexuality is highlighted in a tabloid context. We can trace sexism in the way news is presented to readers, listeners, and viewers.

“Violence against women is concealed and normalized with various idioms, with respect to pudicity killings, honor issues, and similar discourses. Norms are the source of sexism.”  

 Advertisements, marriage programs, and various series are perhaps the biggest sources that expose our unconscious to sexist ideas.  This language not only perpetuates gender roles but also normalizes violence and harassment against women. While women are positioned as passive and easily dominated, the identity of a "good mother” who is “always in shape" is dictated to all women.  Women are portrayed as being obsessed with housework, expected to have no life other than their children, to prepare huge tables with all kinds of food in a short time alone. Women should always look fit and beautiful to dazzle men. In fact, by the bombardment of these kinds of female figures, some women can become "invisible". 

The meaning of “pink” in communication should also be questioned. Pink taxis, pink buses, pink wagons, and similar initiatives are insufficient to protect women from male violence. This makes women who ride in yellow taxis, gray metrobus, and non-pink wagons a target. On the other hand, these initiatives isolate women from social life instead of empowering women to protect themselves from male violence.

Violence against Women and Its Types


According to the data of TUIK for 2015, four out of ten women in Turkey have experienced violence from their spouse or partner. According to data of Bianet, men killed at least 284 women in 2015. There are different types of violence against women and from time to time, they can overlap each other. Physical violence includes all types of violence against the body. Beating, injury, and murder are types of physical violence. Women who are forced to wear high heels despite their physical discomfort are also exposed to physical violence.

Psychological violence targets a person's mental health. Persistent acts, rather than one-off acts, are generally defined as psychological violence. Pressure and comparisons on lifestyle, appearance, and tone of voice are examples of psychological violence. The fact that her peers wear high heels should not oblige any woman to wear high heels.

The use of economic resources to impose sanctions on women and use them as a means of control is economic violence. Economic restrictions, being forced to work, being married for dowry, and being deprived of inheritance can be given as examples of economic violence against women. Forcing women to engage in any sexual behavior that they do not consent to is sexual violence. All sexual contacts approaching the limit of rape, exposing the genitals in an uncomfortable way, forcing them to watch sexually explicit images, verbal or written offensive behaviors, and sending sexually suggestive telephone messages, letters and notes are also examples of sexual violence.

Today's air conditioners work according to the standards determined about 50 years ago. This standard was determined by considering the comfort of a 40-year-old man weighing 70 kilograms. In the research, while women feel comfortable at 24.5 degrees Celsius; men feel comfortable at 22 degrees. This is because men produce more body heat than women due to their muscular structure.


It is a fact that companies that increase gender diversity can develop and grow more than their competitors. The results of the survey "Is Gender Diversity Profitable? Evidence of a Global Survey", prepared by the Peterson Institute of International Economics, with the participation of 21,980 companies in 91 countries shows that companies with high gender diversity also have high talent diversity and this can increase profitability. It is predicted that if the women's labor force participation rate in Turkey increases from 30% to 63% (which is the OECD average), the GDP will increase by 240 billion dollars in 2025. In its report “Investing in Women: New Evidence for the Business Case”, the International Finance Corporation (IFC) states that women make up 40% of the world's labor force, but their participation in many sectors lags this estimation. IFC also believes that companies with high gender diversity will be ahead in terms of productivity and innovation. In summary, the consensus on the view that all stakeholders will benefit from diversity and polyphony is getting more common day by day. We can overcome discrimination by recognizing our privileges. As all genders, we can fight for an equal working life and social environment through collaboration. With the report "Being a Woman in the Business World " we have prepared, we invite all our stakeholders to strive together towards gender equality in business life.

Prepared by: Emre Salkım

Design: Volkan Babaotu 


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