Female academics in Turkey shatter glass ceiling, study shows

May 03, 2013, Friday/ 14:06:00

According to a recent analysis, women make up 47.5 percent of the academics at the top five universities in Turkey, which comes close to achieving an equal gender split

The analysis has been conducted by Thomson Reuters in association with Times Higher Education (THE), a weekly magazine based in London reporting specifically on news and other issues related to higher education. Reuters produced a Global Gender Index, using data collected for the 2012-13 THE World University Rankings. The study shows the glass ceiling remains in place for female academics and the gender inequality persists even in some of the world's most progressive countries such as Sweden, Norway and Denmark.

According to the survey, Turkey heads the gender equality list, with 47.5 percent of female academics at the nation's top five universities, whereas Japan is at the very bottom of the list, with only 12.7 percent of female academics at the country's best universities. Japan is followed by Taiwan, where women make up just 21.3 percent of the academics at the nation's top seven universities.

The UK on the other hand is slightly better, with 34.6 percent of female academics. The US follows the UK with women making up 35.9 percent of the academic personnel.

The figure is 36.7 percent in Sweden, 31.7 percent in Norway and 31 percent in Denmark, which indicates that the gap is even huge in the world's most highly developed countries.

“Academia is characterized as being cutting-edge, innovative and hypermodern, yet wherever you look it is underpinned by the archaism of male domination,” said Louise Morley, director of the Centre for Higher Education and Equity Research at the University of Sussex, in comments on the study, which shows a glaring disparity in the ratio of male to female academics. “Why are so many women missing from leading institutions, particularly at senior management levels?” she asked, further adding that the patriarchal power nexus at universities makes it difficult for women to attain the critical acclaim that might lead to full-time positions.

Also commenting on the issue, Gülsün Sağlamer, former rector of İstanbul Technical University, said that a cross between of historical and cultural reasons is the reason why female academics have done well at Turkish universities, but adds that continuing support is necessary.

Sağlamer also said that the Turkish Republic which was established in 1923 by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk granted women equal rights to higher education, as well as the opportunity to join the Civil Service.

“The new universities that opened in the republican era made special effort to enroll female students,” Sağlamer said. “Some have argued that women served as kind of a reserve army in the Atatürk era,” she further stated.

Later generations of Turkish women “remembered the efforts of the newly built republic in this endeavor with gratitude and pride, were socialized to believe that women were not inferior to men and could be successful in any field they chose to study.”

Women can easily return to the workplace after having children thanks to Turkey's extended-family tradition, Sağlamer said.

“Many universities also provide nurseries and primary and secondary schools on their campuses, together with on-campus housing, which makes life easier, while flexible working hours help women academics to organize themselves for their careers.”

 

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