Turkey’s Engineer Girls

What is the Project About?

The project aims at development of private sector led prototypes for inclusive and sustainable economic growth in the services and manufacturing sectors benefiting from gender equality mainstreaming and advocacy and dissemination of the success stories within the public and private sector. The project will concentrate on developing a private sector led support program to promote female students participation in engineering professions and empowering female engineering students. The long term expected impact of the project is to increase women’s high quality employment and advocate gender equality principles in the leading services and manufacturing sectors to improve inclusiveness of economic growth in a sustainable manner.

What has been the Situation?

Education is a significant determinant of women’s participation in the labor market, particularly in urban parts of Turkey. It is easier for educated women to cope with strong gender inequalities within the labor market. Labor force participation rates increase with respect to education level, reaching the highest rates for women with university degrees. Although, the number of women professionals is lower than men, this difference is smaller than the one between women and men’s participation rates in other patterns of work.

However, relatively higher rates of women’s participation in professional work do not guarantee the equal participation of women. Occupational segregation is very evident in highly skilled work areas such that although women’s participation rates are relatively high, women are generally restricted to professions that are assumed to be appropriate for women and that are less competitive and less prestigious branches of professional world. The technical professions were generally assumed to be inappropriate for women.  

Moreover, women are concentrated in the lower levels of the occupational hierarchy and hold less high level or decision making positions.

Exclusion of women from male dominated professions such as engineering, has social and ideological bases such as masculine character of identity, ethics and culture of professions, and structurally appears within the professional associations and educational institutions.

What is our Mission?

It is possible to say that on the one hand, participation of female students in engineering departments are limited and determined with gender stereotyping, on the other hand there is an increasing tendency among female students towards different branches of engineering. In conclusion, female students who have increasing interests towards engineering should be supported and encouraged. Yet it is important to note that supporting and encouraging them alone would not be enough to challenge the structural inequalities that excludes women from engineering and yet to empower female students. It would only be possible through introducing more egalitarian environment for engineering profession towards challenging gender stereotyping both within educational structure and work relations. To that end, not only female students but also their male classmates, employers, academicians, teachers, business world and the professional associations should be supported in developing a gender sensitive and equalitarian approach.

The project addresses above mentioned needs in a structured and complementary manner bringing all actors together from university students, their families, business actors, to policy makers and mentors in order to support awareness raising, capacity development while targeting to bring inclusive business models which will be first adopted by leading conglomerates business leaders and help transformation of services sector to a more equalitarian state in terms of gender.

How are we doing this?

UNDP works with experts of the project theme in cooperation with Ministry of Family and Social Policies and Limak Foundation.  In line with the results of the first component, a parallel program in high schools will be developed and initiated in order to increase awareness in high school students for selection of engineering profession. In line with the design of the high school awareness program a follow up program is developed for high school students and Limak could continue to support their employment in line with the finalized programs.

Integration of third component via corporate awareness, Gender Equality Seal activities and advocacy on the process and models to be developed will pave the way for increased awareness in a leading holding company and will showcase adaptation of inclusive business models into corporate world with a vision to contribute to a more inclusive business environment.

How will Turkey Benefit?

The project addresses this need in a structured and complementary manner bringing all actors together from university students, their families, business actors, to policy makers and mentors in order to support awareness raising, capacity development while targeting to bring inclusive business models which will be first adopted by leading conglomerates business leaders and help transformation of services sector to a more gender balanced state.

What has been achieved until today?

· In the first component of the project; students in the electrical, electronics, industrial, construction, mechanical, computer and environmental engineering departments of state universities are provided scholarship support as well as the following support within the program:

o Mentoring support from women engineers working in the Limak Group and other organizations,

o Internship opportunities in Limak Group and other organizations,

o Participation to the “Leadership in Engineering” program through webinars,

o Certified on-line English language training opportunities,

o After graduation, employment in Limak and other organizations in the sector in the framework of needs.

· In the first year of the project, 40 and in the second year 54 women engineer candidates were provided by scholarships and other support programs. Currently, there are 110 women scholarship holders, including 2 Syrian women.

· In the second component of the project; two different activities targeting girls in high schools and universities were conducted with the aim of encouraging the selection of engineering departments.

Within the scholarship programs, a total of 110 students including two Syrians from engineering departments benefited from opportunities such as internships in Limak Group and other companies, trainings and mentorships from women engineers and certified online courses that allow them to comprehend the characteristics of engineering and improve their English, leadership and management skills, along with organizational behaviours and communication abilities.

These developments not only improved the scholarship students’ knowledge but also enabled them raise their awareness on the empowerment of women.

· Ministry of Education joined as a partner to the high school component of the project in late 2017.

The high school program aligned to the high school curriculum was designed with the partnership of Ministry of Education. Two schools in Hatay province were selected as the project pilot in 2017.

Awareness activities were conducted in Hatay province through various training programs for students attending sophomore and junior high school students, their parents, teachers and counselors. These activities included seminars, games and races as well as exchanges with role models and target students, parents and teachers. A total of 135 students, 35 teachers and 56 parents were reached with these activities.

· ‘Training of Trainers’ program that addressed school counselors and administrators from fifty schools in ten cities was carried out targeting gender-based factors that shape girls’ selection of professions and gender-based prejudices in the work environment.

· Alongside all of this, a new program was introduced where the scholarship students are required to complete 4 hours of civic involvement per month through their preferred engagement modality. This mandatory volunteerism was introduced with the aim of developing their self-awareness and making them become socially responsible individuals who are proactive members. By being a part of this program, Engineer Girls of Turkey get the opportunity to become employed by Limak Group or other companies after their graduation.

o Over 20 thousand students, educators and parents were trained through the high school program.

o 110 university students from 36 public universities in 24 cities were trained through the scholarship program.

o Various communication and networking activities engaging with the beneficiary students were organized to support their empowerment and self-confidence.

· In the third component of the project; UNDP’s Gender Equality Seal (GES) Program was introduced to Limak. After the introduction of the GES, Limak will be the pilot implementation of GES and advocate of the GES program in Turkey. Gender mainstreaming activities were started within their company. UNDP Turkey CO prepared a workplan for Limak through a consultative process and two gender equality trainings were organized for Limak employees as a first step. The project will evaluate the current status within the company and make firm-level suggestions according to GES benchmarks.

o The training of trainers methodology will be implemented through 50 voluntary teachers from 10 provinces.

o Preparations for Gender Equality Seal in institutions has begun through the projects supporting institutional awareness component.

o The trainings within the scope of the project constitute a pilot study for the Gender Equality Seal and they will be improved systematically and simultaneously with gender equality studies.