When women win, society wins

building a better employee experience

It’s been four years since I initiated our When Women Thrive survey for Turkey. A lot has changed since then. In this year’s survey, we see some clear progress for the country. The number of women in leadership has increased by 19% at the senior management level and 12% at the executive level. But it’s not enough.

Women still only make up 38% of the top leadership positions.

I used to be a professional tennis player, and I was brought up in an environment where I had the privilege and opportunity to receive higher education. I never felt like being a woman held me back in tennis, but I can’t same the same about my professional life. Even if you work hard, can you win as a woman in corporate life?

Unfortunately, I don’t think this is the case yet. For women, especially women of color, hard work doesn’t guarantee success, because, despite your best efforts, other forces are working against you.

In Turkey, only 32% of the workforce is employed, and Turkish women face even higher unemployment than men do. Men are less inclined toward caregiving and parental responsibilities, and this is especially true right now — Mercer’s research on the impact of COVID-19 shows that women’s household responsibilities have increased by 77%. The system isn’t set up for women to succeed financially or meet their (and their families’) health needs.

Below are a few suggestions for promoting better integration and representation of women in the workplace. When women have equal pay and equal opportunities for career development, we will all benefit, and businesses will see improved results. According to Mercer’s ongoing internal impact analysis, project teams with greater gender diversity have 28% higher win rates. Women’s contribution to the workforce is a contribution to the economy.

Suggestion 1: Lead with empathy

According to the When Women Thrive 2020 report, 81% of organizations say improving diversity and inclusion (D&I) is high on their agenda. This is even higher for Turkey, at 94%. This is all good news, but only 42% (34% for Turkey) of global companies have strategic plans in place to increase the number of women in leadership roles.

Leadership starts at the top. Global board involvement is at 66%, but we need more leaders — and not just those who are involved in this effort but leaders with empathy.

Suggestion 2: Persevere and empower each other

Typically, women leave their careers earlier than men.

Of course, there are certain pressures and caregiving responsibilities that make us choose this path, but is it possible that we sometimes give up on our careers too soon? Are we standing in our own way? Below is a screenshot of Turkey’s internal labor market (ILM) data showing how women at the executive level leave more than men (13% compared to 9%). We also need to be mindful of our networks and must support and mentor each other to open paths for success.


Suggestion 3: Educate and garner support from men in D&I efforts

Globally, 48% of men are engaged in improving gender equality, up from 38% in 2016. These results are 41% for Turkey, with an increase of 3% from 2016. Increasing engagement has been slower for Turkey, but is this enough? More men need to educate themselves on and support the D&I efforts. Men are a vital part of the equation, and they can help drive equality in the workplace faster since many hold the critical decision-making roles that can have an impact.

Suggestion 4: Advocate for ourselves

Another data point that always strikes me is from Mercer’s 2020 Global Talent Trends Study. It shows that women lag behind men in asking for promotions (60% compared to 73%) and receiving promotions and pay increases (48% compared to 62%). We must be willing to ask for what we deserve to move forward in our careers.

These are just some of the ways we can improve the representation of women in the workforce to contribute to a winning society.

I want to wish everyone a balanced life, with success and opportunities to grow and make an impact.

Işil Çayirli Ketenci
by Işil Çayirli Ketenci

Global Marketing Leader- Career Business at Mercer