Women in India and Turkey face some of the greatest workplace inequities among the G20 nations but are least likely to speak out, according to a survey released on Tuesday.
Nearly half of women overall in the G20 do not believe they have the same access to jobs or career advancements as men, according to the poll of more than 9,500 women by the Thomson Reuters Foundation and The Rockefeller Foundation.
Only four in every 10 women were confident they earned the same as a man doing the same job.
But in a surprise finding, the survey conducted by pollster Ipsos MORI revealed that only one in five Turkish women, and one in four Indian women, perceived a lack of equal career opportunities as a major issue in the workplace, the poll found.
This runs contrary to World Economic Forum (WEF) data showing that Turkey ranks only ahead of India and Saudi Arabia in the G20 in terms of the gender pay gap and the percentage of women in the workforce, in skilled jobs and in leadership roles.
Despite the statistics, only a third of the Turkish women polled believed men had better access to jobs.
Turkish entrepreneur Bedriye Hülya, who opened her women-only B-Fit gym business in 2006, said workplace inequality is “the norm for the masses”.
“I wish women would talk about inequality but (they) choose not to act on it as they think ‘this is how it is’,” Hülya told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Women need to feel empowered to act and be aware that change is possible and acceptable before speaking out in the workplace, according to gender and legal experts.
“We have aspirations and norms in our heads, what we think is achievable,” said Iris Bohnet, director of the Women and Public Policy Program at the U.S.’s Harvard University.
Professor Ayse Ayata, who teaches gender studies at the Middle East Technical University in Ankara, said the findings of the poll highlighted deeply ingrained attitudes about gender within Turkish society.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan last year declared that “men and women are not equal; it is against nature”.
“There is an ideology that says if women are employed, this means there will be fewer jobs for men, so the government has not encouraged female labour participation for a long time,” Ayata told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
“Increasing conservatism and the idea that women and men are different has influenced some of the middle class and pushed more women towards home and away from work,” she said.
By contrast, women in France were among the most likely to point out inequality in the workplace with 55 percent saying both that men had better access to jobs and had better access to career advancements.
France, which passed a law in 2011 requiring publicly listed companies to make 40 percent of their directors women by 2017, has made strides in the number of women in skilled jobs and senior positions, according to the WEF Global Gender Gap Index.
Business experts say this has given women confidence to demand parity in the workplace.
“Women in France are aware of inequality now more than ever,” said Brigitte Grésy, secretary general of the Superior Council for Professional Equality between Women and Men.
“They are empowered to stand up, speak out and demand the same jobs, opportunities and promotions as men.”
Yet such progress masks the reality for many French women, according to Christiane Robichon, president of Business and Professional Women (BPW) France, who said companies often favour men over women due to childbirth and maternity leave.
Only one third of French women polled said they felt they could have a family without damaging their career, compared with six in 10 women in Turkey and India.
“Even if women only take maternity leave for a few months, employers will question their motivation and commitment … it is a barrier for women’s careers,” Robichon said.
French journalist Fabienne Marie, who works for a weekly newspaper in Brittany, said motherhood was a “gamechanger” for women looking to progress in their career.
“Women with children may be given the flexibility to work part time, but in turn, they will find it difficult to claim positions of responsibility,” said 37-year-old Marie.
“Career development is slower for a woman who wants to have children,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
The survey comes as growing numbers of studies show economies benefit when more women work and increasing women’s income changes spending patterns to benefit children.
At a G20 meeting last November, leaders agreed to reduce the gap in labour participation rates by 25 percent by 2025. The global female rate currently is about 56 percent versus 82 percent for men.
Barrister Catarina Sjolin Knight, a senior lecturer at the Nottingham Law School who co-wrote the Sexual Offences Handbook, said companies must drive change in the workplace.
“There are a lot of positive statements coming out of international conferences and conventions on this but when you scratch the surface, there is no enforcement behind it,” Sjolin Knight told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
“The big companies need to take the lead on this, particularly the ones procuring from other countries as that could drive change in the countries they source from.”