"Men Hug, Kiss, Dance Together in Turkey, and Call Each Other 'Handsome'" I observed, trying to figure out how male-female roles are different, at least superficially, in Turkey compared to America.
First of all, roles seem far more traditional -- men dominate the workplaces and politics, while women are said to be dominate the home and pay more attention to child-rearing. The World Economic Economic Forum's 2009 survey indicated a huge gender gap in compensation for women compared to men in Turkey: "it held 105th place in 2006, was 121st in 2007 and 123rd in 2008. This year, only Saudi Arabia, Benin, Pakistan, Chad and Yemen ranked lower then Turkey. The report ranked Turkey 110th in women’s educational attainment, 130th in economic participation and opportunity and 107th in political empowerment, out of 134 countries." Today's Zaman reports, "Despite Efforts, Turkey Falls in Gender Gap Ranking." Only about one out of four women were employed outside the home in 2008, and that number dwindled to nearly one out of five in 2009. Unemployed women are clearly poorer women, and their children are poorer too.
And yet, people we know are more important than statistical data, which can be skewed by interpretations that don't tell the full story. As Elle Loftis explained in an article for Today's Zaman, "Diary of an Expat Bride: Therapy for Cross-Cultural Couples," quoting Turkish-American psychologist Eda Arduman:
" 'Turkish society and families focus on the group rather than the individual, unlike the Western model...Generally, the American and European model raises us in a culture of over-individuation. We aspire to be 'solely independent.' This is completely counter to the Turkish standard...She advocates the importance of listening to each other, while also challenging stereotypes that deserve challenging. Both sides need to view things differently, which is a part of adult development."
We've certainly met Turkish women who seem to be both professionally and personally fulfilled, free from stereotyped roles, and happy in their family lives. A large percentage of Turkish women may stay home to care for children and/or parents. Or, because child care and elder care services are unavailable, they feel they have no choice but to stay home and take care of family members.