Turkey first joined the Women Of Aviation Week celebration in 2014. Since then, Turkish individuals, groups, and corporations have won multiple Fly It Forward® Awards and Turkey has taken the lead for most official WOAW events with 376 to date. Along with Canada and the United States, it is one of the countries that officially recognizes and celebrates Women Of Aviation Worldwide Week.
One man, Can Erel, was key to Turkey’s involvement and success. He shares his efforts to foster gender balance in his own words below and hopes to inspire others to lead similar efforts in their own countries.
Original text in Turkish here.
By supporting women in the male-dominated aerospace industries, my efforts to develop the missing “Gender Balance (GB)” in this ecosystem date back to the mid-1980s.
At the time, I was one of the managers at the Eskisefir Aircraft Factory (EAF) and we were dealing with workforce shortage issues as we had to rapidly increase capacity of aircraft maintenance and repair capabilities. That is when I became involved in efforts to foster gender balance nationally in aviation strategically. Today, I am lucky to count as friends many of the women who stepped in during that initial efforts and became some of Turkish aviation’s most prominent female role models in their respective fields.
These efforts continued in the following period, with the opportunities brought upon and facilities provided by circumstances in my jobs in defense, civil aviation and even in my private ventures after my retirement from the Air Force.
During this period, while I was researching the topic of Turkish women who were pioneers in the development of our national aviation, I shared the information about the 100th anniversary of the Turkish woman’s flight by plane in open sources. After I shared this, the Dean of Istanbul Technical University (ITU) Faculty of Aeronautics and Astronautics in collaboration with ITU Women Studies Center in Science Engineering and Technology showed interest and sent an invitation to an event that covered my conference on “Turkish Women in the National Aviation Development Process” and the associated speeches of some of the leading Turkish aviatrices on December 2nd 2013. As the press showed interest in the event, it turned to be an important turning point for the efforts.
The open-source dissemination of this research has generated significant advances in both national and international interest. The first thing that comes to mind is our making acquainted with the Canadian-based Institute for Women Of Aviation Worldwide (iWOAW) in 2014… iWOAW had declared that the week of March 8 (Monday to Sunday) every year would be “Women of Aviation Worldwide Week (WOAW)” on the 100th anniversary of the day that the first woman in the world received her pilot’s license on March 8, 1910 and during this week events organized all over the world were being followed and evaluated. I learned this activity process by watching it first, and the following year I helped the circles I could reach to participate it; the results were remarkable. With this enthusiasm, I became the volunteer organizer and representative of these events, the first in our country and then in Turkish speaking countries and surrounding countries. I received personal recognitions by iWOAW as “Most Acclaimed Organizer Worldwide Award” with my conference “Turkish Women in the Development Process of the Turkish National Aviation & Aerospace” at WOAW16 and “The Most Productive Organizer Worldwide Award” with my mentoring project for country-wide week events in the WOAW20. Years later I served for some time on the Board of this Institute. I’ve included pages on my website for my efforts on fostering gender balance including “Women in Aviation & AeroSpace Industries”, “Pioneering Turkish Aviatricies”, “Being a Woman in This Geography”, “Being an Aviator Woman in This Geography” and “WOAW”.
Subsequently, during my undertaking as the Deputy Director General of Civil Aviation, my opinion that the fostering gender balance should be carried out in a way that regulates and implements processes with traceable activities based on an integrated approach and sincere cooperation of the related parties was accepted and supported by the relevant decision makers, the temporary Civil Aviation Gender Balance Fostering Commission (GBFC) was formed and “Instruction for Gender Balance Fostering In Civil Aviation” was prepared. The initial event, “Symposium on Fostering Gender Balance in Aviation” as the first information and consultation platform in the country was held. Then, the principal members of the commission were designated, the commission advisory board was formed with the suggestions received from the sector and the activities were started within the scope of the instruction. This development, which is a first in the world with its systematic approach and setup, soon started to receive interest and feedback from the ICAO and other related organizations…
In parallel with an international aviation organized in Turkey, the “International Symposium on Women in Aviation & AeroSpace” was held on April 26, 2018. Then, the GBFC was invited to participate in the ICAO’s first global summit themed gender balance, in South Africa between 8-10 August 2018 and the speech received great acclaim given by the GBFC Secretary, In the following period, the “Gender Balance Symposium 2020” of a private initiative, which was planned to be organized at the Turkish Civil Aviation Academy (TCAA) with the motivation and support of the DGCA on March 4, 2020 was postponed first due to the martyrs and then was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Final Word: When I finished my duties at the DGCA and GBFC, I said “I hope it does not remain as just a trace!”.