The Bilkent University Gender Equality Plan (BGEP for short) is a working document intended to set the framework for all activities that are aimed at securing gender equality in education, research, and innovation, for all university stakeholders. Bilkent University is committed to maintaining an equal opportunity environment in all of its functions. The BGEP aims to facilitate the mechanisms to cultivate this environment and to improve upon the existing policies for promoting gender equality.
Bilkent University has adopted a non-discrimination statement declaring:
“Bilkent University hires academic and administrative staff and admits students without regard to gender identity, race, color, age, national or ethnic origin or sexual orientation, to all the rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded or made available to staff and students at the university. It does not discriminate on the basis of gender identity, race, color, age, national or ethnic origin in administration of its educational policies, admissions policies, scholarship and loan programs, or athletic and other university-administered programs.”
The BGEP is based on the earlier preliminary Bilkent Gender Equality Plan Report (BGEP-R), which was prepared by a team of faculty members, in collaboration with several deans, faculty members, managers of administrative units, administrative staff and students, and was finalized in May 2022.
During the preparation of the preliminary BGEP-R, a representative sample of faculties, university administrative units and students from different departments were selected to assess the current state and collect feedback regarding gender issues in the university. Both numerical data and personal opinions were requested from these sources. The BGEP-R team also conducted surveys with faculty
members, administrative staff, and students. During the preparation of the preliminary BGEP-R, the following resources were extensively used throughout the document: Horizon Europe Guidance on Gender Equality Plans (GEPs) of European Commission; Gender Equality in Academia and Research GEAR tool, European Institute for Gender Equality; “Implicit bias in academia: A challenge to the meritocratic principle and to women’s careers – And what to do about it”, LERU Advice Paper 2018. The legal and institutional settings that form the national context are summarized in the Appendix.
The Rector formed a four-member committee to finalize the BGEP draft in July 2022. The resulting draft document was further developed in collaboration with the Rector’s Office and later presented to the university Senate. The Senate ratified the BGEP as a working document to be communicated within the institution and published on the Bilkent University website. The BGEP demonstrates Bilkent University’s commitment to gender equality, as well as setting clear goals and an action plan toward
achieving these goals.
Objective 1: Institutionalization
Bilkent University has a well-established policy of non-discrimination for allstaff and students in regard to their gender, race, color, age, national or ethnic origin, or sexual orientation, regarding their access to all the rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded or made available to them. In this respect, all decisions undertaken by the administration of the university are free of gender discrimination.
Regarding the implementation, coordination, and monitoring of this policy by university administrative units and faculties, a Gender Equality Committee (GEC) is to be established as detailed below:
Action: Gender Equality Committee (GEC)
- GEC is a standing committee for identifying, monitoring, and coordinating plans related to the issues of gender, diversity, equality, and inclusion.
- The committee consists of five members and reports to the Rector.
- Each committee member is appointed by the Rector for a period of two years from faculty members, administrative staff members, and students.
- This committee works as a liaison unit with the academic and administrative units of the university to propose plans for its mission and measuring outcomes.
- This committee works in collaboration with other relevant units at Bilkent University for training and capacity building purposes, as well as to receive feedback. These units include the Teaching and Learning Support Center, the Sexual Harassment Reporting and Prevention Unit, and Psychological Counseling and Development Center.
- The committee meets at least once a semester to evaluate the implementation of the BGEP and report its findings to the Rector.
- The committee is slated to be formed in 2023.
Objective 2: Data Collection and Monitoring
It is imperative that gender equality actions are supported by continuous data collection and monitoring. The preliminary findings outlined in BGEP-R are an important step in this direction, establishing the basis for further data collection needs and methods. With the goal of continuous data collection and monitoring regarding gender equality in the university, the following actions are to be
Action 1. Collection of official gender related statistics (conducted annually)
- Gender distribution of employees at all levels, including top-executive levels.
- Gender distribution of career progression of employees.
- Gender distribution of rejected candidates and drop-outs from the university.
- Gender disaggregated statistics for research, funding and academic publications.
- Academic outputs on gender equality issues.
- Gender statistics for students disaggregated with departments, programs, graduation semesters, etc.
Action 2. A survey for faculty and administrative staff to monitor the perception among employees (conducted every three years)
- The survey assesses the perception among the employees on issues such as whether the university has a gender-equal and inclusive environment, whether sexual harassment is treated appropriately and whether gender is perceived to affect career progression.
- The survey is succinct and collects only related data.
- The data is gender disaggregated and is collected across all staff categories.
- The survey is taken on a voluntary basis and is anonymous.
Action 3. A survey for students to monitor the perception among students (conducted every three years)
- The survey assesses the perception among the students on issues such as whether the university has a gender-equal and inclusive environment; whether sexual harassment is treated appropriately and whether gender is perceived to affect academic success.
- The survey questions the gender issues within and out of the classroom.
- The survey is succinct and collects only related data.
- The data is gender disaggregated and is collected across the university.
- The survey is taken on a voluntary basis and is anonymous.
Action 4. Publishing and monitoring the collected data
- Data collected through actions 1-3 are monitored and evaluated by the GEC.
- Annual progress reports and summary results for gender related statistics are shared with all members of the university.
- Actions listed in the BGEP document are revised based on the feedback from the surveys, as well as the trends in the gender related statistics.
- Ongoing visibility is provided to the BGEP via university-wide announcements. The staff and the students are kept informed about and involved in the related training and capacity building activities.
Objective 3: Training and Capacity Building
Implicit bias is an important impediment against gender inclusivity, meritocracy, and fairness. The preliminary BGEP-R survey results indicate that while the majority ofrespondents(student, faculty and staff) believe thatthere is equal treatment along the lines of gender at Bilkent University, there is room for improvement regarding awareness raising and training for gender equality.
In light of the existing circumstances and the feedback received from the preliminary BGEP-R survey, following actions are to be taken for training of students, faculty members and administrators:
Action 1. Organization of sessions during the orientation program at the beginning of each academic year for incoming undergraduate and graduate students to raise awareness on gender equality and to highlight unconscious gender biases.
Action 2. Organization of training sessions at the beginning of each academic year for incoming faculty and teaching assistants on gender equality in classrooms and other learning settings.
Action 3. Holding seminars and presentations on gender issues in academic and professional life.
Action 4. Training of administrators and people in the hiring committees regarding conscious and unconscious forms of discrimination in personnel selection procedures.
Objective 4: Organizational Culture and Work-life Balance
Organizational culture and work-life balance are key factors that contribute to creating an enabling environment for members of all genders in the research and teaching sectors. Implicit or explicit biases are detrimental factors against gender equality, as they impact the way organizations operate. To combat biases, the following actions are to be taken:
Action 1. Transparency
- University’s position regarding gender equality is explicitly stated and is made publicly available in the regulations and in related web pages.
- Commitments and actions related to gender equality are shared with all members of the university and the public.
Action 2. Mitigating Gender Bias
- Gender specific terms and pronouns are avoided in university web pages, published documents, and recruitment processes.
Action 3. Integrating the Gender Dimension into Research, Teaching and Training
- Organize seminars on gender issues for faculty and teaching assistants.
- Communicate training programs for academics and researchers to enable them to incorporate the gender dimension into their research.
- Encourage inclusion and diversity of individuals through the assigned texts, classroom activities, and guest speakers.
Objective 5: Gender Equality in Recruitment, Career Progression, and Leadership
Bilkent University adopts an equal opportunity perspective in all of its functions, including recruitment and career progression. In particular, all job announcements, interviews, and career progression processes are carried out with a gender neutral approach. Merit is the single most important factor in all recruitment and promotion decisions.
Gender balance is desirable for institutions to fully realize the potential values of their members. Statistics show that women are sometimes reluctant to apply for decision-making positions, especially in male dominated contexts. Hence, it is worth supporting and encouraging members of all genders to apply for decision-making positions. The preliminary BGEP-R survey results indicate that there is room for improvement in reaching a gender balance in decision making positions across the university. To improve university’s standing with regard to this goal, the following actions are to be taken:
Action 1. Organization of awareness-raising activities regarding diversity, inclusion, biases for academic and non- academic members of the university, especially for those in the leadership positions.
Action 2. Propose long-term plans towards improving gender balance in academic and non-academic leadership positions across the university.
Objective 6: Combating Against Gender-based Violence and Sexual Harassment
Bilkent University is committed to creating a safe, inclusive and productive learning environment and working space for all of its students and staff. For this purpose, the university is also committed to promoting equity and improving the existing policies and mechanisms for combating gender-based violence and sexual harassment. The university has recently established the Sexual Harassment Reporting and Prevention Unit (SHARP). The following actions are to be taken with regard to this topic:
Action 1. Publish an online policy document concerning sexual harassment
- The document explains Bilkent University’s policies in detail and inform about how members of the university can file a report about gender-based or sexual harassment.
- The document should be easily accessible and visible at university websites.
Action 2. Maintain and promote SHARP unit to combat gender-based violence and sexual harassment
- Work in collaboration with the Psychological Counseling and Development Center (PCDC) to provide proper training to everyone who will have contact with victims of violence in the context of the SHARP unit.
- Work in collaboration with PCDC to prepare training videos and online resources for students, faculty, and administrative staff.
- Provide ongoing visibility to the SHARP unit through means such as university website, posters, flyers, leaflets that are hung on designated bulletin boards in various buildings across the campus.
- Disseminate knowledge about the SHARP in the student, staff, and faculty orientation processes.
- Encourage new students to participate in workshops and seminars as part of the GE100 Orientation course where they learn about university’s policies, the SHARP unit and other available resources for combating gender-based violence and sexual harassment.
APPENDIX: The National Context
Turkey is party to important international conventions that guarantee gender equality, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) as well as the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (ECHR) and the Protocol No 7 to the ECHR, the European Social Charter and the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings.
Article 10 of the Turkish Constitution guarantees equality before the law. According to the said provision, “Everyone is equal before the law without distinction as to language, race, colour, sex, political opinion, philosophical belief, religion and sect, or any such grounds. (Paragraph added on May 7, 2004; Act No. 5170) Men and women have equal rights. The State has an obligation to ensure that this equality exists in practice. (Sentence added on September 12, 2010; Act No. 5982) Measures taken for this purpose shall not be interpreted as contrary to the principle of equality. (Paragraph added on September 12, 2010; Act No. 5982) Measures to be taken for children, the elderly, disabled people, widows and orphans of martyrs as well as for the invalid and veterans shall not be considered as violation of the principle of equality. No privilege shall be granted to any individual, family, group or class. State organs and administrative authorities are obliged to act in compliance with the principle of equality before the law in all their proceedings.”
The principle of gender equality is also secured in the Turkish Civil and Criminal Codes as well as in the Law on the Protection of Family and Prevention of Violence Against Woman. The Labour Act regulates the principle of non-discrimination in employment relations. Under Article 5 of the Act, “No discrimination based on language, race, sex, political opinion, philosophical belief, religion and sex or similar reasons is permissible in the employment relationship. Unless there are essential reasons for differential treatment, the employer must not make any discrimination between a full-time and a parttime employee or an employee working under a fixed-term employment contract (contract made for a definite period) and one working under an open-ended employment contract (contract made for an indefinite period). Except for biological reasons or reasons related to the nature of the job, the employer must not make any discrimination, either directly or indirectly, against an employee in the conclusion, conditions, execution and termination of his (her) employment contract due to the employee’s sex or maternity. Differential remuneration for similar jobs or for work of equal value is not permissible. Application of special protective provisions due to the employee’s sex shall not justify paying him (her) a lower wage. If the employer violates the above provisions in the execution or termination of the employment relationship, the employee may demand compensation up his (her) four months’ wages plus other claims of which he (she) has been deprived. Article 31 of the Trade Unions Act is reserved. While the provisions of Article 20 are reserved, the burden of proof in regard to the violation of the above – stated provisions by the employer rests on the employee. However, if the employee shows a strong likelihood of such a violation, the burden of proof that the alleged violation has not materialized shall rest on the employer”.
At institutional level, the Council of Higher Education adopted the Position Paper on Gender Equality in Higher Education in 2015 and the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TUBITAK) published the Policy Guidelines for Increasing the Participation of Women Researchers in TUBITAK processes in 2019.