CoHE Takes Action for New Policy on Women’s Empowerment in Academia

June 8, 2021 / Ankara

Female rectors working in Turkey met in a meeting held at CoHE, which was headed by CoHE President Prof. M. A. Yekta Saraç. In his statement, Saraç noted that they initiated a study with the female rectors working in Turkey for women’s empowerment in academia. He said that they would subject the universities to a ranking according to the criteria they would determine on issues such as the maintenance of the momentum in the rate of female academics and a safe campus, and that they would announce this ranking to the public. CoHE President Saraç said that the meeting with the female rectors in the Turkish higher education system had very beneficial results.

Saraç reiterated that he informed the Committee of Parliamentary Inquiry at GNAT, which was formed to determine the measures to be taken after the investigation of all aspects of the causes of violence against women, of the issue the previous week and said, "We see that Turkey is in a very good position in the number of female academics, even at a high level that cannot be compared with Western European countries. The number of female academics is the pride of the Turkish academia."

Saraç pointed out that the European Commission would publish a finalized report that week and said, “It is also revealed in the report that the visibility of the female workforce with doctoral degrees in academia and R&D is quite above the average.”

- “We are concerned that the increase in the rate of female academics in Europe will stall”

Saraç said that he had a meeting with the President of the European University Association about the number of female academics the previous month.

“We asked them a question. We told them that we wanted to know the reason for the stall of the increase in the rate of female academics at European universities and that we, as Turkey, were worried about the situation. When we presented them the data of the female academics in Turkey, they were stunned. Turkey is in a very good position in terms of the visibility of women in academia, much better than Western European countries. There are also developments that make us more hopeful about the future. Although the gap between the rate of female PhD holders and male PhD holders is relatively wide, this rate is similar in all of Europe. We see that the gap between female associate professors and male associate professors is closer. When we look at the number of female assistant professors, the gap is so close, and the rate of female research assistants is in favor of women. In other words, we can say that the rate of future professors in Turkey will be higher in favor of women.”

- “We will make use of the report of female rectors in the decision-making mechanisms”

Yekta Saraç said the following in the meeting:

“We are starting a project for women’s empowerment in academia. Today’s meeting is actually a precursor to that. What we discussed with the female rectors was how to sustain the increase in the rate of female academics even more strongly, and how to take this further under the topic of senior executives. We also discussed the topics on the measures to be taken to ensure that female academics continue their education in a more comfortable, safer, and more peaceful way on campus.

We also made a request to the female rectors. We asked them to start all these procedures through a mechanism they have established on their own and to finalize their reports without asking for our guidance on any matter. We also promised that we would make use of this report in our decision-making mechanisms. The female rectors will determine the criteria for women’s empowerment in the academia and for providing a safer environment for female students on campus. This is a first. But we want to talk about another issue. After evaluating universities according to these criteria, we will share the situation at these universities with the public in a transparent manner. We will rank them by determining physical criteria such as the employment of female faculty members and senior executives and safe campus, just like we did for the Barrier-free University Awards, and share this ranking with the public.“

Yekta Saraç stated that some of the female rectors, who attended the meeting, said that the penalties for harassment against women on campuses were insufficient. He said that he told these rectors he believed the legislative department would approach it in a positive attitude in case an amendment was needed in the legislation. “The female rectors will address the legal dimension of the issue. If there is an issue in the disciplinary legislation that requires any change in this regard, they will also work on it and we will take it to the necessary authorities," he said.

Saraç emphasized that the New CoHE would carry out these processes in an open and transparent manner as it did in all its processes.

- What did female rectors say about it?

Prof. Nigar Demircan Çakar, Rector of Düzce University, answered the questions of the AA correspondent regarding the meeting.

Çakar thanked CoHE President Saraç for the studies that are visible in the statistics of women in higher education and said, “Unfortunately, it has become a habit to criticize without producing solutions in recent years. However, there are studies carried out on women, which are also visible in the figures, in our country. In this context, 18 women rectors are employed at Turkish universities, which are 10 foundation universities and 8 state universities. The number of female academics in higher education far exceeds the European average.”

Çakar said that the female academics were having talks on the steps to be taken to turn Turkey into a great area of attraction and an area in which they could produce valuable scientific projects and values. “Making the YÖK Academy Merit Platform functional, having it used by all universities and creating an encouraging and motivating atmosphere in which women can aspire to leadership positions in higher education are also included in our proposals,” she said.

Prof. Yadigar İzmirli, Rector of Istanbul Aydın University, extended her thanks to CoHE President Saraç for giving his support to female academics and the profile of women at universities and for offering a new insight. İzmirli emphasized that the number of female academic staff in higher education was far ahead of EU universities and said that this figure would gradually increase with the rise in the number of female researchers in the YÖK 100/2000 Project. She noted that big steps for the employment of women in senior management positions had been taken in recent years. She said that it was a period with the highest number of female rectors and that, along with the number of female deans, Turkey was above the European average in terms of senior management.

İzmirli stated that they had a very fruitful meeting at CoHE and that they were extremely pleased with the new insights of CoHE. She said that they, as female rectors, expressed the need for appointments based on merit for female researchers.

İzmirli noted that nearly 50 percent of higher education students are female students and that these students face some challenges. “We will make an assessment that will include studies such as safe campus which will eliminate the possibility of violence and harassment against women at universities. We hope to give the good news of a generation that is open to safer and more peaceful advancement in Turkish higher education," she said.

​Source: Anadolu Agency