Following the founding of the Republic, women have shined, assuming pioneering roles in a number of areas. Yet, somehow, diplomacy remained an area women could not break the glass ceiling for a very long time. But this is being visibly changed in recent times.
The turning point came when Filiz Dinçmen was appointed as Ambassador to Lahey in 1982. That was a big revolution. For the first time in the history of the Republic a woman had become an ambassador. Dinçmen later served as Turkey’s permanent representative to the Council of Europe in Strasbourg. She also worked as the spokesperson of the ministry, became deputy undersecretary and retired in 2004 after she served as Turkey’s envoy to Vatican.
The initial years of the Republic had actually seen a short lived trial. Adile Ayda became the first diplomat to enter the Foreign Ministry as a career diplomat in 1932. However, she left the ministry a year later to continue a career in academics.
Following a long break, Ayda returned to the ministry in 1958 when Fatin Rüştü Zorlu from the Democrat Party was the minister. It was during Zorlu’s time that women started serious careers in the Foreign Ministry. From 1957 to 1959, six women, Jale Yiğit, Şükran Güneş, Betin Yiğit, Adile Ayda and Birsen Demiriz, joined the ministry as career diplomats.
It seems that women were never encouraged for a career in diplomacy. The negative discrimination is related to the mentality and prejudice that was dominant way until the 1970s.
According to Volkan Vural, who served as an ambassador in many capitals including Tehran, Moscow and Madrid, the conviction that women could not serve in positions with difficult living and working conditions was also behind the negative perspective for women to work indiplomacy.
The widespread belief that they would not be able to continue their profession as they were believed to choose the preferences of their husband once they would marry or due to having children had fed these prejudices.
Highest rate among state institutions
There are 63 women ambassadors, of which six are political appointees. Thirty-seven ambassadors (including political appointees) serve abroad, which means 23 percent of Turkey’s ambassadors serving abroad are women.
Currently, the rate of women who hold positions in the ministry that will open the way to acquire the title of ambassador (like deputy director) stands at 43 percent. While there is no guarantee that they will all become ambassadors, this rate indicates that the number of female ambassadors will become higher in the future.
Let us add that in the last entry exam organized on April 28, 2018, people qualified to enter the ministry as career diplomats. The strategic equality was caught with 14 women and 14 men.
Turkey’s first woman ambassador Filiz Dinçmen said Turkish female diplomats can have successful careers in international organizations as well. Recalling that Ambassador Sumru Noyan was appointed as the Deputy Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in 2001, “We could have many more like her,” she said.