State bodies, investors and civil society make case for more women on boards of Turkish firms

By Olga Rosca
@olgarosca

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  • Joint action to increase the number of women on boards of Turkish firms
  • Inclusion of women on boards linked to stronger corporate governance
  • Successful, competitive companies pave the way for a resilient, inclusive economy

State institutions, development banks, business associations and professional women’s networks in Turkey are taking action to increase the inclusion of women on the boards of local companies.

Under the leadership of EBRD’s Legal Transition, the partners have developed a roadmap that sets out actions to promote greater representation of women in corporate decision-making. The document links presence of women on boards to stronger corporate governance, improved financial performance and better corporate environmental and social outcomes.

Turkey’s listed companies are lagging their global peers, in terms of inclusion of women on boards, with almost 40 per cent of boards in 2019 consisting of men only.

Melsa Ararat, Professor of Corporate Governance at Sabanci University, who is coordinating the effort, said: “The enthusiastic contribution of the participating institutions in developing the roadmap is reassuring for successful implementation. Each participant has their own perspective and justification for promoting a higher ratio of female directors on corporate boards and in leadership. Among these reasons are improving boards’ effectiveness by refreshing the entrenched boards and encouraging women’s effective participation in the economy by including women in the upper echelons of business organisations. We envisage an entirely inclusive process and invite all interested parties to join the implementation efforts.”

The roadmap was developed with EBRD funding and in partnership with the Ministry of Family and Social Services, the Capital Markets Board of Turkey, Borsa Istanbul and the International Finance Corporation (IFC); business associations TUSIAD, TOBB, the 30% Club, the United Nations Global Compact Turkey Network and the Corporate Governance Association of Turkey; and professional women’s networks the Women’s Entrepreneurs Association KAGIDER, Women Corporate Directors and Sabanci University’s Independent Women Directors Platform.

The partnering institutions, which have joined forces as a steering group to implement the roadmap, have agreed to:

  • create awareness about the benefits of multifaceted boards
  • increase and make visible the pool of women candidates who are “board ready” through training, certification and board apprenticeship
  • make a “director nomination toolkit” available to companies to ensure that nomination processes take into account the skills and competency requirements that can be met by “board-ready” women
  • identify regulatory and legal tools to support and encourage better boards through the inclusion of talented and competent women on boards.

These actions aim to create an environment that is conducive to women’s corporate leadership in Turkey. The implementation will ensure that boardrooms include professionals who offer a mix of skills, experience and backgrounds, building successful, competitive companies and, by extension, resilient, inclusive economies.

The roadmap also calls for greater transparency in reporting, proposing the creation of an investable index and a disclosure project to collect data on the inclusion of men and women on boards of both listed and privately held Turkish companies.

Arvid Tuerkner, EBRD Managing Director for Turkey, said: “The EBRD promotes access to economic opportunities for all as a means to ensure sustainable and inclusive growth. As part of this, we believe that the enabling environment for women’s participation in the economy at all levels including decision-making roles at board level should be enhanced. Beyond the obvious moral imperative, greater diversity among board directors was shown to improve decision-making and overall business performance.  As a leading institutional investor in Turkey, we are committed to supporting gender diversity on boards at all times and especially as we are preparing for a more inclusive post-pandemic future.”

Arnaud Dupoizat, the IFC’s Country Manager for Turkey and Russia, added: “We were extremely happy to join this important initiative with the EBRD and Sabanci University Corporate Governance Forum. The IFC is a strong advocate of gender balance on corporate boards. The presence of women on boards has long surpassed being a social imperative and has proven to be good for business, including evidence of a positive correlation in addressing climate change risks. We see representation of women on corporate boards as a key ingredient of the environmental, social and governance agenda in Turkey and encourage Turkish private-sector stakeholders to use this comprehensive roadmap to pave the way for increased female participation in the boardroom.”

The roadmap was well received and supported by Turkey’s business associations.

TOBB President Rifat Hisarciklıoğlu said: “The only way for our country to take its place among the countries that achieve sustainable development is to increase the representation of women in all areas. At TOBB, we make great efforts to make women play a greater role in all areas of society. In 2007, we established the TOBB Women Entrepreneurs Board to make women more active in business life. Today, as one of the largest networks of women entrepreneurs in the world, with more than 7,000 members, our board conducts activities to increase the number of female entrepreneurs in our country and to empower women in their business lives.  In this sense, increasing the number of women working professionally and seeing more women represented in the managerial ranks are among our priorities. We are ready for all kinds of cooperation in implementing the roadmap to be prepared in cooperation with the public and private sectors.”

TÜSİAD President Simone Kaslowski added: “TUSIAD believes that the equal participation of women and men in economic life, decision-making mechanisms, politics and society is a determining factor in a country's democracy and development level. We are implementing many projects for the private sector with the aim of empowering women in the economy and business life. Research reveals that companies that open up more space for women on boards and in senior management are more successful in creating high value-added, corporate performance and efficiency in decision-making processes. We believe that the cooperation of the public and private sectors, civil society and international investment institutions is very important to implementing holistic practices, with a roadmap for removing the barriers that prevent women from reaching high-level decision-making positions and ensuring gender equality in all areas of business life.”

Capital Markets Board of Turkey Chairman Ali Fuat Taşkesenlioğlu commented: “We value and support the efforts to include different opinions and experiences on boards of directors and especially to increase the representation of women within the framework of the contribution of capital markets to sustainable development. Providing equal opportunities to women to increase women's representation and participation in the business world is important in terms of productivity and long-term financial value.”

Having set a target in its strategic plan for all company boards to have least one female director by 2022, the Turkish Ministry of Family and Social Services issued the following statement: “As the Ministry, we attach great importance to increasing the representation of women on the boards of companies. As a matter of fact, we see that there is a clear direction on this issue in the 11th Development Plan. We also included concrete action on this issue in the Women's Empowerment Strategy Document and Action Plan that we have established institutionally. In the next period, as the Ministry, we will continue to support all kinds of activities that will enable women to take a higher place in management and decision-making mechanisms in the private sector.”

Ece Börü, a Board Member, representing the Corporate Governance Association of Turkey, said: “A board requires a diversity of skills and views and representation of women to make decisions that are truly effective, with a lasting impact. This cultural change will improve boards’ overall performance. Useful methods for creating a diverse board includes establishing networks and offering support to women in the corporate world. Targeted training, development programmes, apprenticeships and effective policy development are useful approaches to facilitating gender balance on boards. Models supporting gender equality at board level bring about high-performing and sustainable governance.”

Ann Cairns, Global Chair of 30% Club, stated: “I am delighted that the 30% Club Turkey Chapter has contributed to the development of the roadmap to promote the inclusion of women on corporate boards and business leadership in Turkey. Women’s participation in business decision making is associated with better social and environmental corporate performance, higher and sustained participation of women in the work force and appreciation of the values equality and inclusion by the society through spill over effects.”

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