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Helping women in business in Turkey overcome challenges

Businesswoman holding some of her products

The economic inclusion of women in Turkey remains low, despite recent progress, and there is evidence of sex-based segmentation in the labour market. Female labour-force participation is low, at 31.3 per cent ‒ one of the lowest rates of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries ‒ compared with 69 per cent for men. Women entrepreneurs struggle to access finance and entrepreneurial skills training, as they are often deemed risker clients for cultural reasons or lack traditional collateral. There is a need for tailored business skills training for women and to abolish gender bias in lending practices and financial products.

How we work

To help overcome these challenges, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) launched the Women in Business (WiB) programme in Turkey in 2014. Initially, it was a €300 million dedicated credit line to ensure on-lending to women through five local commercial banks. WiB provides loans for women-led small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), in addition to business advisory services and seminars to build awareness of entrepreneurship, both as an employment prospect and opportunity for women, to attract potential sub-borrowers and to train loan recipients on specific business subjects. Through the programme, the EBRD holds conferences that bring together women entrepreneurs and support institutions in developing the environment for and spurring discussion of women’s entrepreneurship. WiB also provides an online SME diagnostics tool, Business Lens, which helps women assess the strengths and weaknesses of their businesses, with a focus on strategic, operational and management processes. Building on the programme in the face of growing challenges, WiB advisory projects will also begin to cover crisis and risk management to help women entrepreneurs adapt their operations in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Achievements and results

Some 19,000 women entrepreneurs have received a loan from partner banks through the WiB programme to date. The loans have a total value of €417 million, including €300 million of EBRD financing, with additional contributions from the partner banks themselves and donors. The WiB portfolio has supported inclusive access to finance across the country.

The programme has addressed regional disparities by providing 66 per cent of financing outside the main cities of Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir.

To help overcome barriers to financial access, 40 per cent of loans have been provided to first-time borrowers and start-ups (32 percent of the loan volume), which often face greater challenges accessing first-time finance.

WiB has helped to raise awareness of the benefits of lending to women-owned SMEs, resulting in partner banks targeting the female segment with their own financial products.
The WiB programme also helps women-led SMEs to build relevant skills and develop their businesses. It provides access to business know-how and networks through advisory project support from local consultants and international advisers (339 women- led enterprises), entrepreneurial skills development training (657 women), mentoring (80 women-led enterprises) and outreach activities, such as seminars and national and regional visibility events (13,000 women). These programmes help to increase:

  • employment opportunities, with 46 per cent of SMEs that received advisory services reporting an increase in number of employees. In total, more 1,135 jobs have been created, of which 792 are held by women.
  • business growth. Business owners attributed several aspects of this growth to the WiB loan they received, for example, to open a new shop or to participate in an international exhibition. On the advisory side, 190 of the 248 (77 per cent) of the SME advisory clients evaluated reported an increase in turnover one year after completing their programme.


The WiB programme in Turkey aligns with the country’s interest in seeing key local stakeholder groups championing female employment and entrepreneurship. The programme is funded in partnership with the European Union, the Turkish Ministry of Labour, Social Security and Family, the Turkish Ministry of Treasury and Finance, and the Credit Guarantee Fund. It works closely with the Turkish Women’s International Network, the Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey (TOBB) Women Entrepreneurs Board, the KAGIDER Women Entrepreneurs Association of Turkey, the Turkish Confederation of Tradesmen and Craftsmen (TESK) and Turkey’s regional development agencies to promote women's entrepreneurship.

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