Engineer Girls of Türkiye Project Phase-II
What is the project about?
Reducing the gender gap in science, technology, engineering, and maths (STEM), and ensuring an increased participation of women in these sectors and occupations that are historically attributed to men, do have a proven beneficial economic impact for society, with spill over effects into various domains of the political and social life. Despite all these positive effects, women are still underrepresented in such sectors. Although Türkiye’s ratio of female to male engineers and scientists is outperforming the EU average, women still struggle to be present in STEM fields as well as in decision making positions.
In a nutshell, it is possible to say that participation of female students in engineering departments are limited and determined with gender stereotyping; whereas there is an increasing tendency among female students towards different branches of engineering. Thus, in terms of economic and social progress; strengthening and enrichment of the engineering profession and empowerment of women and female students with interests towards engineering are priority issues to be supported and encouraged.
As response to this crucial intervention area, the first phase of the Engineer Girls of Türkiye Project (aka Türkiye’nin Mühendis Kızları (TMK) in Turkish) was implemented between 2016 and 2021 in close cooperation between Ministry of Family and Social Policies, Ministry of Education, Limak Foundation and UNDP Türkiye. The first phase mainly focused on women’s empowerment and gender equality for inclusive and sustainable economic growth in the services and manufacturing sectors, through capacity development, gender equality mainstreaming and advocacy. Within this scope, the project developed several tools to support and empower female students who study and/or will study engineering, in many respects and in various stages of their education, and also aimed to increase quality employment for women.
While the project provided continuous support on women’s participation in some professional fields significantly underrepresented (especially STEM), the second phase has been a follow up project to ensure sustainability; continuing this support and transforming Engineer Girls of Türkiye into an independent and sustainable platform.
What has been the situation?
In Türkiye, women’s participation to the labour force is structured around deep gender inequalities, as in many countries around the world. According to November 2022 Labour Force Statistics of TURKSTAT, women’s labour force participation rate in Türkiye is 36.4 percent while men’s is 72,1 percent. The employment rate is 31.7 percent for women while this rate is 65.7 percent for men.
In urbanized and industrialized Türkiye, women’s participation to labour force with higher skills and higher value-added profiles is a major need. Due to urbanization and migration, women’s participation in production have shifted from agriculture-based to industry (as low skill workers) and service-based sectors due to growth performance of the overall Turkish economy. Women who were mainly working in agriculture and as unpaid family laborers face many difficulties in becoming a part of industrial production due to their lack of education and experience.
This points out that education is a significant determinant of women’s participation in the labour market, particularly in urban areas. It is easier for educated women to cope with strong gender inequalities within the labour market. Labour force participation rates increase in parallel with education level, with the highest rates observed for women with university degrees. Nearly half of those who receive undergraduate and doctoral degrees are women in Türkiye. However, according to Union of Chambers of Turkish Engineers and Architects; the rate of women engineers is 23 percent According to Council of Higher Education data, the percentage of STEM graduates to total graduates in Türkiye is around 17 percent.
According to OECD data, fewer than 1 in 3 engineering graduates and fewer than 1 in 5 computer science graduates are girls in OECD countries. Exclusion of women from male dominated professions such as engineering has social and ideological bases such as a masculine culture of professions, structurally starting from professional organizations and educational institutions and continues to emerge in working life and workspaces.
What is our mission?
Women’s and youth empowerment has always been global priority for UNDP, whereas gender equality (SDG 5) is at the heart of UNDP’s development mandate as it makes crucial contributions to the progress across all the SDG’s and targets. As in the Country Programme Document 2021-2025, UNDP plans on deploying capacity building actions on skills formation and implementing inclusive social policies to address youth unemployment and women’s economic and social empowerment. In this respect, UNDP Türkiye keeps on carrying out many projects and studies in this area, including the Engineer Girls of Türkiye.
The Engineer Girls of Türkiye - Phase II project aims to promote female students’ participation in engineering professions, empower female engineer students and pilot studies to transform the project into an independent and sustainable platform.
Activities of this project are designed holistically by taking into consideration both employment and education. They are aligned with and supportive of international commitments for ensuring gender equality, notably the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the priorities and policies of the Ministry of Family and Social Services towards empowering women and girls, Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations and Beijing Declaration aiming to eliminate all forms of discrimination against women and girls and ensure gender equality. The project is also aligned with national priorities and key strategy documents of the 11th National Development Plan and Women Empowerment Strategy and Action Plan (2018-2023).
How are we doing this?
The project developed several tools to support and empower female students, who study and/or will study engineering, in many respects and in various stages of their education. The long-term impact of the project is to increase high-quality employment for women and demonstrate the benefits of gender equality principles on inclusive sustainable growth in the prominent service and manufacturing sectors.
The three expected results of the project are as below;
- Female students are encouraged to pursue STEM careers within the university program scholarship (at electrical and electronic, industrial, civil, mechanical, environmental, chemistry and computer engineering departments): Various tools to be designed specifically for awareness raising and used among students and women in labour force.
- Sustainability of TMK as an independent platform ensured: Several studies undertaken on sustainability and exit strategy were structured with alternative ways and possible modalities, while business models for the transition to an independent platform were prepared. Under this component piloting will be carried out to test new possible structures.
- TMK model promoted nationally and internationally: Under this component advocacy actions will be organised for internationalization, fund raising and enhanced stakeholder engagement in line with sustainability vision.
How will Türkiye Benefit?
Targeting the disproportional representation of women in engineering, TMK Project aims to inspire more girls for engineering career in Türkiye by eliminating gender stereotypes in engineering, raising awareness and supporting young girls who wish to study and work in this field. The expected long-term impact of the project is to increase high-quality employment for women and demonstrate the benefits of gender equality principles on inclusive sustainable growth in the prominent service and manufacturing sectors.
TMK experience revealed that intervention created strong impact at different levels and established strong commitment from all relevant stakeholders. The success achieved during the first phase of the project are promising and welcomed with national and international appreciation and interest. All those achievements during the project implementation phase created a momentum for all related partners to continue stronger complementary actions for gender equality studies especially in the STEM fields. Therefore, a continuation phase (Phase II) will keep on supporting female students’ participation in engineering professions and transform “Engineer Girls of Türkiye” into an independent and sustainable platform to ensure sustainability.
What has been done so far?
- Within university programme, the project supports 150 female engineering students, enrolled at computer, environmental, electrical-electronic, chemical, industrial, civil and mechanical engineering departments in Turkish state universities. Project scholars are benefitting from scholarship, women to women mentoring programme (by volunteer female professionals of engineering), online training programmes designed to promote professional and soft skills of the 21st century, online English training, internship and employment opportunities. The programme also requires fellows to design and/or attend volunteering activities as a mandatory component of the programme.
- Within the university programme, online platform called “TMK Kariyer” was developed to bring companies and project alumni for internship and employment opportunities.
- Many tools within the awareness raising activities of the high school programme were developed and used such as; the “Decision is Yours” board game, the digital platform called “ASK Engineer”, the Role Model Meetings and videos to inform and encourage high school students, instructors and parents on different career options. Seven digital content in total were made and published at the project’s YouTube channel.
- Several studies were undertaken on an alternative structure for TMK which is independent, community based, self-financing and sustainable. Possible future modalities were analyzed and business model alternatives for transformation to an independent platform were prepared. For project’s sustainability, several capacity development activities are being carried out with project alumni to support community base transformation.
- Like every year, the “Istanbul Gathering” event was held in May 2022 to bring together project scholars with their mentors, coaches, graduates, guest speakers and role models. Trainings and events specifically designed for project scholars and cultural visits also took place at the İstanbul Gathering events.
- Various potential stakeholder meetings were held for the promotion of the project on a national scale.
- Within the scope of internationalization studies, project model was replicated in Kuwait, North Macedonia and Kosovo. Cooperation between UNDP and Limak continues in projects initiated in North Macedonia and Kosovo. All these initiatives have been carried out under the umbrella of "Global Engineer Girls".