Within the past decade, awareness of the business world towards the need to empower women in the economy and workplace increased steadily. This awareness was surely inflamed by the alarming statistics on the gender gap within the economic realm. According to World Economic Forum's 2014 Gender Gap report, the worldwide gap in economic participation and opportunity now stands at 60 per cent. In an era which the world is battling with great recession, we do not have luxury to exclude the half of the population from the talent pool.
This distressing issue was surely among agenda items at the B20 Conference held in Ankara in September 2015. Mr. Ahmet Davutoğlu, Prime Minister of the Republic of Turkey, and Ms. Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), reiterated the importance of promoting greater inclusiveness. Moreover, the Women-20 (W20) engagement group which is established by the Turkish presidency was launched in the days following the conference. But does all this have any concrete impact on increasing female labour force participation?
It is not possible to address the issue of gender inequality in the economic sphere without shifting the fundamental gendered paradigm of the marketplace and of its participants. Achieving gains in women's employment requires particular consideration to the gendered nature of societal institutions, including the business enterprises.
Numerous research points out to significant gender bias at businesses. For example, in different research studies where individuals were asked to review two identical job applications, one with male and the other with female name on it, resulted in female being rated less competent and hireable than the identical male applicant. Again in a similar research conducted by Yale University, female applicant was offered a $4,000 less starting salary than of male candidate's.
Change, particularly social transformation, is a timely and effort-intensive process. This is where platforms such as the B20 come in. B20 brings together business leaders from all over the world who have the potential to change the rules and set a new tone at the top. If one sentence, claim or statistic could change the perception of one participant, it could trigger a significant shift within the marketplace. People tend to underestimate impact one person can have, but no matter how cliché it sounds, it is actions at individual level that can change the world. Perhaps it is as simple as that. That is how paradigms shift.
B20 is highly aware of the business case behind achieving gender equality and actively promotes it through policy recommendations. In B20 2015 Presidency, increasing female labour force participation is among 19 recommendations B20 put forward to support G20 leaders.
In order to support the global effort towards closing the gender gap, we at Koç Group focused our efforts to develop a challenging and comprehensive gender program. The program includes components from developing a gender-sensitive work environment to shifting gender norms across Turkey by reaching 100,000 people with gender mainstreaming trainings. Our work in this area resulted in the Koç Group becoming one of the ten global Impact Champions of the UN Women's HeForShe Campaign. We are now championing gender equality across Turkey and are a key partner of UN Women in the region.
By Ali Y. Koç, Koç Holding A.Ş. Member of the Board of the Directors.
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