When we try to explain equality through such an equation, we’ll happen to pass biology, history, philosophy and religion, but if we follow a certain route, we will end up with the same question.
On the other hand, when we start to examine equality as equality of opportunities and rights, we can use statistics, the indicators of equality, to shed light on our way. This light enables us to reach the development processes on which social justice and all economies pin their hopes for the future.
Social equality refers to the equal rights of all people in a society before the law and equal access to rights such as education, healthcare, labor force participation and to the opportunities that these rights lead to.
In this article, our focus is on women’s contribution to the economy and labor. Statistics show that the higher the education level of women, the more they contribute to the labor force. Research studies show that equating women’s contribution to labor with the contribution of men in that country will increase the gross national product (GNP), for example, by 5 percent in the USA, 9 percent in Japan, 12 percent in the United Arab Emirates and 34 percent in Egypt. When a mother’s annual income rises by $90, her children’s school attendance increases by 1.6 years. This research was carried out in India, but the Education Reform Initiative’s studies also suggest a similar impact in Turkey: Girls with working mothers attend school 1 year longer compared to others.
The greater contribution of women to the economy began with the industrial revolution and the West, stuck between wars, realizing that meeting the growth need is possible not only through men but also women becoming a part of the business life. The process of social gender inequality becoming a current issue and the more active contribution of women to business life also paved the way for enfranchisement of woman.
Today, women have taken the driver’s seat of the economy as the person who steers the consumption decisions of the household. The concept of “Women’s Economy” draws attention to the size of the cake created by female consumers on a global scale. Women make the purchasing decisions for 94 percent of household goods, 92 percent of vacations, 91 percent of real estate, and 51 percent of consumer electronics. Another research shows that two-thirds of the purchasing decisions in America will be made by women by the year 2020.
Women, who have a strong position in the field of economy in terms of consumption decisions, have a long way ahead for their position in business life to gain a similar power. Some countries are trying to find shortcuts. For example, Germany has regulated the quota of women on the boards of directors as a legal requirement. It is too early to say whether the impact of these approaches is positive or negative. Various national regulations were made in Norway in 2002 to increase the proportion of women in the board of directors to 40 percent. While the proportion of women on the board of directors of listed companies in 2002 was below 10 percent, it was above 40 percent by January 2008. The issue of whether there is an impact on the economic performance of the companies under the regulation is criticized for the lack of sufficient control groups in the research studies. It is extremely difficult to measure the impact in the short term. Nevertheless, the example of Norway was followed by Germany very recently. Different countries have different regulations relating to the subject. With these regulations, it is intended that “quota” practices put into effect on a national basis to ensure greater contribution of women to economic, social and political life at all levels and internal goals at the company level become tools to achieve gender equality among employees at all levels.
When we look at the effectiveness of women in politics, the most striking statistic regarding the fact that the situation is even poorer than their contribution to labor force is that women are only 22 percent represented in parliaments worldwide. In order to start the change, applying quotas are relied on also in the field of politics.
Our transition from the industrial age to the information age has democratized the tools and methods of production. Facts such as international borders becoming less clear through products and services, the globalization of trade, and the mobility of labor, inventions and technology required different skill sets to be involved, especially in leadership processes. Our age features the need for skills such as designing, creativity, communication, listening, empathizing, managing change through learning, giving meaning, working with limits and sensitivity. It is stated that sustainability-threatening issues co-created by human beings and influencing every single world citizen such as global sourcing and climate change should also be handled with these skills.
While considering that sustainability is one of the basic principles in life, examining the consumption potential alone or revealing solely women’s productive and sharing nature offer a limited framework also in terms of human rights.
On the other hand, not revealing the differences leads to the elimination of 1 out of 2 from the beginning by subjecting a “human” with infinite potential to a simple category and this suggests a point of view that goes against the spirit of nature.
Therefore, we should evaluate the differences between men and women not on the basis of gender, but with the intention of bringing together the competencies, knowledge and skills that are different in each and every person. We need to strengthen the possibilities to use wealth, which is to be gained through differences created with the emergence of each individual’s current skills and individual potential, for social and economic development. We must evaluate equality on the basis of human rights and we must oppose all forms of discrimination and violence imposed on the individual.
The fact that women and men take part in socioeconomic life differently becomes a reality that is carried into the future with various prejudices, acceptances and traditions. We can give a few examples: “Women cannot drive”, “Men don’t raise children”, “This is a boy’s toy”, “Girls cannot undergo a period of training on a construction site”, “Men are obliged to look after women”, “A woman’s place is her home”. New regulations based on these judgments can reinforce inequality rather than fixing it. While making regulations at the public level, it is necessary to initiate change and make adjustments for a new reality that allows the exercising of rights instead of these judgments that vary across societies and over time. We can start the change by asking ourselves a question: “How can we recognize and change the language we use, our behavioral patterns and attitudes, the rules and laws we are subject to in order to be on the right track for equality?” And the second question is: “Where does my freedom begin and where does it end? What are my limits?” The rights that we wish every person to benefit from equally should be exercised without violating the rights of another. My freedom ends where your freedom begins. And your freedom ends where mine begins. This is a basic living space limitation and applies to every individual, regardless of gender.
Within the individual and social roles that each of us plays, there is a field where we can initiate change for social gender equality within the framework of this question.
Managing this journey will be possible only through accurate evaluations and solutions, platforms and applications for this purpose. A more egalitarian atmosphere can be achieved through changes not only in our individual behaviors but also in corporate environments such as family and workplaces. Therefore, a total paradigm shift is inevitable.
The global campaign launched by UNWomen recently under Emma Watson’s spokesmanship also supports this stance. The campaign refers to HE, which is the pronoun for male in English, supporting SHE (Security, Human Rights and Empowerment), which brings together the initials of the English words for the terms “empowering women”, “ensuring women’s security” and “enfranchising human rights to women”, and also making room for equality by raising his voice. This campaign, whose main message is that equality will liberate both men and women, has been met with great interest in our country. The campaign urging men to press the “I support” button on the “heforshe” website, thereby aims to create a wind of action.
Different strategies should be developed in order to make room for women in the business world, to support women’s employment and to support women’s empowerment in terms of career opportunities. To sum these up under a few headings:
Forcing corporate attitudes and approaches – Situations related to institutions, from role sharing within the family to the environment at work, should all be examined. One of the most important changes that can be made in the work environment is to realize the benefits of treating the workplace as a skill pool with no gender discrimination and to spread this awareness throughout the entire organization.
Considering that the “glass wall” and “glass ceiling” concepts are barricades and obstacles made up of invisible rules and judgments, we can guess that detecting these obstacles is possible if and only viewed with the intention of seeing things. In this respect, the gender breakdown of statistics on opportunity and mobility within the organization can be examined to see where the blind spots and invisible barriers are. Furthermore, making role models visible for both women and men is also important in terms of making people who hold the qualifications of the new age visible.
Traditional leadership qualifications such as loudness, toughness, uncompromising attitude, sternness, etc. have been identified with men. And this has created an expectation that over time, male-type female leaders who differ from their peers by displaying these qualifications can climb up. However, a number of new features required for the management and administration of different generations and skill groups consist of both masculine and feminine characteristics. Conveying these approaches to women and men through in-company trainings will positively affect key indicators for human resources teams such as belonging, work commitment and working period, while serving social gender equality on the other hand. It is also important to allow equal access to career opportunities within the company and to identify and remove both visible and invisible filters on this path.
Finally, equal pay for equal work is important, regardless of gender. This proposition is quite reasonable. While looking at whether it’s put into practice or not, there are two insidious acknowledgments here which one should not fall into the trap of. The first is the preconceived opinion / acknowledgment about the man being the breadwinner. And the other is the acknowledgment that women will not object to or will accept lower wages. In order to make these attitude changes permanent, support should be given to employee solidarity groups and mentoring programs, as well as building the necessary infrastructure through company policies and trainings. Creating cases and discussing how to overcome them are also essential for the internalization of egalitarian concepts, definitions and attitudes you want to be used.
We must strengthen women’s development areas in the individual field. The most important factor affecting the contribution of women to the labor force in the individual field is the education level of women. In both developed and developing countries, we see that the higher the education level gets, the higher the contribution to the labor force becomes. Schooling rates and education levels of individuals should be monitored nationally and supported through campaigns. Creative approaches should be developed in order to reconsider traditional occupational discriminations with a modern understanding and to allow women to contribute.
A second issue should also be addressed, such as women not becoming candidates due to their own prejudices, despite having sufficient/necessary qualifications. Research studies show that a woman does not want to become a candidate for a certain position without holding 100 percent of the required qualifications. Men, on the other hand, think that it is good enough if they have 66 percent of the required qualifications and become candidates. And other studies show that this self-confidence is reinforced by the necessary support mechanisms (patronage, appointment to visible jobs, getting high-level support). We know that men can guide each other in natural conversation platforms and use patronage widely. Having insufficient number of women in the workplace is a factor that blocks these support mechanisms. These deficiencies should be remedied by support mechanisms such as in-house mentoring and leadership programs. Similarly, female employees should be given space, opportunity and investment should be made in their development. Thus, the reinforced self-confidence will strengthen women both in their business and private lives by enabling them to cope with social judgments.
We must open doors for the functioning of the system by making legal regulations. The roles society expects of women under the principle of the social state should be supported through alternative approaches developed or they should be fulfilled perfectly. Regulations in business life and facilitating practices for participation in politics should also be included under this heading. It is important to increase the number of approaches that regulate socio-economic life in a way that facilitates the contribution of women, such as municipalities opening daycare facilities or granting the maternity leave to men as well as to women. Campaigns with a similar to “heforshe”, which will serve the paradigm shift, will trigger the applications under this heading and will set an example for the umbrella applications that are expected to make an impact under the other two headings.
Wishing a future free from the cycles that block the opportunities that discriminate us, the conditionings that hinder freedom, and the practices of inequality.