Sabancı Community Employees Got Together For International Women's Day


Sabancı Community employees got together at the International Women's Day event that took place at the Sabancı Center. Starting with the speech of Sabancı Group Chairman of the Executive Board Güler Sabancı, a panel discussion about position of the women in business also took place. Alongside with Sabancı Group Head of Human Resources Group Neriman Ülsever, Sabancı Foundation General Manager Zerrin Koyunsağan, Sabancı University Institution Management Forum Director Melsa Ararat and Çimsa General Manager Nevra Özhatay, wide level of employees from Sabancı Community also attended to the panel. After the panel that has been moderated by Cüneyt Özdemir, Temsa Construction Equipment General Manager Cevdet Alemdar and Sabancı Group Chairman of the Executive Board Güler Sabancı, gave the certificates to the women who joined the forklift using training. After the event, Sertap Erener took the stage.

In her opening speech of the event, Güler Sabancı emphasized the need to strengthen the role of women in business and said:

“One of the most important trends that will affect the world is the participation of women in the labor force... We will talk about this subject. As I previously told at my CNN International interview, ‘This century will be the century of women!’. I believe this wholeheartedly. Just like climate changes and urbanization, women’s participation and rising in working life is an inevitable trend, but also again just like any other major changes, this is a process that involves a lot of throes. However, the ones who keep up with this process and who successfully survived the throes, will forge ahead at the competition. We have come a long way, you are the most beautiful proof of this. But, this is not enough. We have a lot to do!

Looking at Google, the words women and work come together for the first time at 1990s. Indeed, in 1910, March 8 is being selected as International Women’s Day. But, we can mention about women's real awakening during the 1960s. Women’s justified demands for participation in the labor force, starting to take impact in the society barely at that time. 1980s and 90s are the years that the potential is started to being realized/understood. Participation of women in the labor force appeared to support the economical growth. Awareness of the importance of gender equality has increased. Government policies in parallel to this situation began to be developed. Start of my career coincides with these years. In 1978, after finishing the university I immediately started to work. My first job was at the Lassa factory as a buying specialist. My family supported me a lot. Particularly Sakıp Sabancı, was a successful leader and he used to teach about success very well. He said to me, ‘My girl, I can only open the door. Getting in, staying there and being successful is up to you’. In every environment, at work, in teams, civil society organizations, the boards, at YPO, TUSIAD, ERT, i was always the first and mostly the only woman. But in recent years, I am very happy to see more women in my environment.

In terms of the role of women, we can define this period as an increased awareness and acceptance period. Gender Gap Report that I will be soon to talk about has been prepared by World Economic Forum and first issued in 2006. United Nations, established UN Women; its office working about women issues, in 2010. These examples give us tips about the change.

According to US Labor Statistics Agency’s research, in the US, while the participation of women in the workforce was under 40% in 1960, they were able to increase this rate to 57% in 2012. So, in 52 years, the rate has reached from 40% to 57%! Why I am talking about United States? America is an important country on equality, democracy, protection of women’s rights and women’s participation in the economy.

According to the Fed's report, 51.3% of the assets in the United States are already in the hands of women. (and you know the Fed is now finally have a woman president.) Today the women who have the 51% of assets are predicted as they will have 2/3 of the assets by the year 2020. The reason for this increase is, women can make better long-term saving decisions!

I had the chance to listen former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the “Women of the World” conference that I have attended in New York. In a country like United States which is an example on women’s participation in economy, about this subject Hillary Clinton said: ‘We have an unfinished business’! In a developed country such as USA where is known for the most advanced rule of law and democracy, a country that equality is settled as a way of life, Hillary Clinton, one of the most important figures that had an impact for the last 10 years, have said this. Because the US also has its own problems and challenges.

The researches and approximations show that in 2020, there will not be an increase in the participation of women in the labor force, contrary, there will be a decline at the rate of 3% in USA. Yes, a large portion of USA’s assets are in women’s hands. 10 years ago, CEOs of eight out of Fortune 500 companies were women. But this number is now 26. This growth in a decade is pretty remarkable but this only brings us to a rate of about five per cent.

At the Oscar Awards Ceremony that has been held in the past days, Patricia Arquette won the Best Supporting Actress award and she brought the ‘pay equity’ issue to the agenda while giving her Oscar speech. I made the opening of a conference on energy at MIT last year. The most important issue that discussed was, there was not enough women studying engineering and how to overcome this problem…

So; as we are trying to make our girls to study at least to the age of 18 and not get married too soon, they are trying to increase the number of girls who study engineering. They began, but they say that they ‘have an unfinished business’. They have a long way to go… Yet us, we are just beginning in many ways. There is a full, and an empty side of the glass. It is essential where you look at. I have a structure which is motivated by looking at the full side. Therefore, I took the courage of what has been made so far. Also, I am looking at what is happening in USA. I say, if they have managed, we can also do it. First of all, I say we should determine our goal, our peak. We need to maintain our courage, we need to work efficient and towards our objectives.


The climate of the world offers us conditions which is supporting our voyage. Wind is with us. We may heave up our anchors and move faster. However, no wind is the right one for the ones who do not know their wish to go. We want equity! We want equal rights, equal opportunities, equal supports! However we want to have this equity by deserving (with merit). We do not want any privilege! We want our rights! We are aware that it is not enough only laws to be in equity side. Determinants are applications, "mind-set", sosiety aspect and stance... We all have roles for this subject. Today the conditions that we have are changing for better but this is not enough.

According to the index of United Nations Gender Inequality 2014, Turkey is in the 69th place. According to the Gender Gap Report prepared in 2014 by World Economy Forum, we are in the 125th place out of 136 country. As of 2013, in Turkey, Women's participation rate in workforce is 30%. Actually women's participation to economy is a mandatory for Turkey's future. Today women's participation in workforce is 30%. This rate is 70% for male, this may increase to 75% at most. Thus, if Turkey takes a step for its 2023 targets, then we must increase the women rate of participation in working. To do this, we should prepare our women to work life by training them. We should lead as contribute to development by planning women's training. Even more clearly, unless women participate in economy, Turkey can not reach to 2023 targets under those conditions. In our country, we are sadly observing limited participation of women in politics where we need them at most also, as well as business world.

According to the Women Participation in Politics Report of United Nations, we are in the 90th place out of 96 countries. According to the same report, as representation in council rate is 20% of the world average, we have 14%. This rate is 42% for Scandinavian countries and 22.6% in USA. I hope that there would be more women candidate in upcoming general elections. I wish for our women in politics, even if their number is less, that they could "make a difference" and be successful so that they can make a path for the new generations. In this field we should aim to get above the average. We can not build a Turkey which is self confident, democrat, free and fair, without women. We should always remember that we are the women who are among the first gain the right to elect and be elected around the world, the most important gain of Republic. We should protect this right forever. This is mentioned lately in Davos. Especially, in the developing countries like ours, women participation and equal positioning in every field is essential for growing a healthy democracy. The developing countries which are able to manage this will outdo and forge ahead within the next 10-20 years.

In our country, there are several precious studies on gender inequity, as there are in other countries. To measure this situation, and to compare with the samples from other countries is doubtlessly a beginning for a enhancement. As I always say: We can not enhance a thing that we did not measure. This studies shall open our way. From now on there is no need losing time to persuade anyone. We can run faster without losing time. I focused on those subjects in the beginning of 80s and 90s. First time I was offered that "would you make a speech as a role model to motivate our women employees?" by Dupont company in the beginning of 90s. I have been general manager in Kordsa when I was at my 30s age and then I was selected as group president. I was invited to USA, Delaware. I mean, before Turkey, firstly in abroad they want me to share my experiences. My authority and responsibilities are attractive even for the companies in USA. Today, at the head of Dupont, a women CEO, Ellen Kullman who is started to work as an engineer and manage to reach peak, is on duty. For the first time a woman CEO is on duty in 2009 at Dupont which is founded in 1802. This is another sign of the trend that I mentioned in the beginning...

This speech was a beginning. Afterwards, I shared my experiences by participating this kind of meeting both in Turkey and abroad. Because, foremost is to gain "self-confidence". Believing to achieve, observing the achievers, familiarizing the achievers is increasing this self confidence.


Research results show that women create positive effect on work life. It is observed that there is a positive increment in both corporate and financial performance, quality of critical decisions, creativity, innovation, ethical behaviors in the companies which allow women to take place in senior management. Thus, women existence and activity in business life is actually an important factor in terms of work success. The companies and managers that are success-oriented should take this factor into consideration in their decision. Another reality in business life is that total earning of women around the world is 13 trillion dollar and their spending force is 20 trillion dollar. I mean, as you can see from this example, we, ladies, love to spend: And we are the determinant for the spendings. Thus, women have significant potential on decision making and managing consuming economy as a consumer. In USA, 85% of total purchasing decisions are made by women. And this proves us that women are irreplaceable part of economy, business life.

Our age is called as mobile age; and the women who are capable of multi-tasking, doubtlessly get benefit from this age and they will get benefit much easier.

Almost 1000 CEO around the world have signed the United Nations Women Consolidation Principles. Fortunately, we are the first signers in Turkey. I want to share our numbers with you. In Sabancı Community, our total women employee rate is 32%, white collar women employee rate is 38% besides, in 2014 recruited employees has reached to 40%. Women employee promotion rate for white collar is 49%. This subject maintains its privilege in our agenda.

The researches conducted in our country show that there is regional differences. We are focusing on this field with Sabancı Foundation that we are celebrating 41st years. Our foundation which is established under the leadership and will of a woman, my grandmother, Sadıka Sabancı has granted her all asset 41 years ago, is now working for contributing women and enable them to better conditions. Community development and improvement is only possible by the collaboration of public, private sector and civil society together and actively. This is called as success triangle. As Sabancı Foundation we conduct "United Nations Common Program of Developing Women Human Rights" since 2006.


Our target is to climb Himalayas. We need to aim the peak of this business. But remember, Himalayas consists of small hills. Thus, for each small hill, we should determine a target, prepare for it and climb those hills step by step.

All researches, all data show that women and their participation are needed for a better world, better democracy and better future. There would not be a better world without increasing the women participation. We know this. However, we will not get spoiled because of this.

This change will return us as better qualified democracy and better qualified life in a growing world!

Right before I end up my words, I want end my speech by sharing 3 rules which helped me a lot: First: Do not give up. No backsies! Business life is difficult, it is more difficult for women. Accept this as it is. Do not bemoan about it. Work and be patient. Be constant. Sit tight in your place. Stand out firmly.

Second: Reach to people. Ask for help. Ask for advice, consult. Do not feel shy, do not be sensitive. Ask questions. Do not be shy about it because what is essential is to reach right answer. Is to achieve right job.

Third: If you slog away under the most difficult conditions, get bored, be patient and keep smiling! I thank you all for listening to me".