33 SES 11 B, Gender Equality in Higher Education
Recently, important developments have taken place regarding gender equality in higher education in Turkey. Many universities in Turkey implemented policies geared towards the prevention of sexual harassment on campus and designed university-wide courses on gender equality. In addition, two universities are known to have developed a Gender Equality Action Plan, and two are in the process of developing one. In 2015, the Higher Education Council of Turkey (YÖK) invited academics from all around Turkey to a workshop on gender sensitive higher education. In the aftermath of the workshop, a committee was created to guide and support gender equality actions in universities. All of these are very promising developments regarding the state of gender equality in higher education.
On one hand, Turkey is not faring well regarding gender equality, in World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2017, Turkey ranks 131st among 144 countries. The low levels of women’s labor force participation and significant under-representation in decision-making positions (in politics, state institutions and universities) remain to be areas of concern. In the context of higher education institutions; pressing issues can be summarized as follows:
- The underrepresentation of women in decision-making positions,
- The underrepresentation of women in certain disciplines; specifically STEM
- The lack / inadequacy of institutional mechanisms benefiting work / life balance
- Gender based discrimination affecting processes of recruitment, promotion and distribution of benefits and resources
- The gendered division of administrative labor among faculty members
- The need for strengthening the gender dimension in research and teaching in various disciplines
On the other hand, as the developments summarized above illustrate, in recent years, significant transformations are taking place in universities regarding women’s empowerment and gender equality. The improvements in universities are made possible by academics involved in women’s studies, most of who are active members and initiators of women’s studies programs, centers and networks in Turkey. That said, there are also setbacks and major obstacles to gender equality in some Turkish universities given lack of support from university administrations. A major challenge is the undermining of feminist scholarship and removal of female academics from decision-making positions in women’s studies centers and institutes by university administrations. The paper assesses these positive developments along with the setbacks in the context of micro and macro politics of gender in Turkey.
The analysis in this paper is based on an assessment of gender equality actions in higher education in Turkey in terms of their potential for promoting European Commission’s three main recommendations for the European Research Area, which are:
- Removing barriers to the recruitment, retention and career progression of female researchers,
- Addressing gender imbalances in decision making processes,
- Strengthening the gender dimension in research and innovation content
The paper is based on original research conducted by the authors. Desk research includes the development of an inventory of projects, toolkits and guidelines developed in the European Research Network and an assessment of the main components of sample action plans, reports, toolkits and EC-funded projects in Turkey, Germany and Sweden. Fieldwork consists of the analysis of 12 expert interviews conducted with academics who initiated gender equality actions in Turkish higher education and are active in women’s studies networks.
The paper assesses past and present actions, identifies achievements and shortcomings and lays out strategies for newcomers. As such, the paper sheds light onto the dynamics of macro and micro gender policies in Turkey. With insights from feminist democracy theory (Pateman 1988, Phillips 2000, Young 2000) it takes a holistic approach to the promotion of gender equality and democracy and conceptualizes it as a process that takes place on multiple levels involving the university, workplace, education institutions, family and the society in general. As such the role and effects of the principles and practices of decision-making on gender equality are evaluated in the context of the university. The research also provides grounds for the evaluation of gender equality actions in higher education in terms “women’s empowerment” conceptualized as a basic strategy combining women’s needs with strategic interests.
Carole Pateman, The Sexual Contract (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1988); Anne Philips, “Feminism and Republicanism: Is This a Plausible Alliance?,” Journal of Political Philosophy 8.2 (2000): 279-93 Iris M. Young, Inclusion and Democracy (Oxford University Press, 2000). Helmut Schwalb & Georg Theunissen, Inklusion, Partizipation und Empowerment in der Behindertenarbeit. Best-Practice-Beispiele: Wohnen – Leben – Arbeit – Freizeit. (Verlag W.Kohlhammer): 26. Kate Young, Planning Development with Women: Making a World of Difference (Macmillan: 1993). Lisa Husu, “Gender Discrimination in the Promised Land of Gender Equality”, Higher Education in Europe 25.2 (2000): 221-228. Mary Ann Danowitz Sagaria Ed. Women, Universities and Change: Gender Equality in the European Union and United States. (Palgrave: 2007). Naila Kabeer, Reversed Realities: Gender Hierarchies in Development Thought (Verso Publications: 1994). Nobert Herringer, Empowerment in der Sozialen Arbeit. Eine Einführung. (Kohlhammer, 2002): 16. Robyn Marschke et al., “Demographic Inertia Revisited: An Immodest Proposal to Achieve Equitable Gender Representation among Faculty in Higher Education” The Journal of Higher Education 78.1 (2007): 1-26.
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