Meet three women working to close Turkey’s gender pay gap

written by James Shackell December 10, 2018
A female bus driver

There are a lot of things we fight for here at Intrepid: sustainable tourism, ditching plastic bags, putting an end to animal cruelty, and increased holiday leave for all (we’re still working on that one). But gender equality and female empowerment are particularly close to our hearts.

In fact, in the last few years, we’ve gone on a female recruitment campaign in India (working towards a 50/50 gender split among our tour leaders), started hosting an annual Women’s Leadership Forum, and have established partnerships with Rehash Trash, Small Projects Istanbul and the Thin Green Line – all projects with a focus on female empowerment – via our not-for-profit, The Intrepid Foundation.

Now it’s Turkey’s turn.

A woman walks towards Turkish ruins

Wandering around the ruins in Selcuk.

What’s the problem?

Unfortunately, Turkey ranks 131 out of 144 countries for gender wage parity, according to the Global Gender Gap Report. Women make up only only 13% of the country’s Parliament, and every year, over 300 women are killed by their partners as a result of domestic violence. Financial independence and increasing employment for women are two things we can do to help.

The first step is finding more female suppliers on ground. We already have amazing women business partners in Turkey, and we’re working on several projects to increase the number of female suppliers.


Meet three of our incredible female suppliers:  

Nuray Çopur | Tour Host & Chef

Three people at a cooking class

Nuray (right) in the kitchen, with two cooking students.

Nuray has been working with Intrepid for seven years now, whipping up home-cooked dinners for travellers from her home kitchen in Cappadocia. In the winter, she attends free English courses in Kayseri (the nearest big city); she’s getting pretty good, too!

What’s the best part of your job?

I love cooking. I can be creative in the kitchen, and seeing people finish their plate is a wonderful feeling. I’ve been able to send both my daughters to university, and that makes me very proud.

What are the biggest challenges facing women in Turkey?

In small towns, for conservative families, it’s not common for women to work. Husbands sometimes feel threatened if their wives achieve financial independence. Thankfully, as the years pass, this is changing. More women are now getting involved in business.

What do you like about working for Intrepid?

Rather than working in a hotel or a restaurant, I can cook for my family and have dinner with them. My biggest joy is seeing every traveller as a part of my family. I love when people meet me, taste my food, then go home and try cooking themselves. Sometimes they send me pictures. It’s delightful.


Sebahat Yilmaz | Skipper, Chef & Boat Captain

A married couple in Turkey

Sabahat and her husband, Mehmet.

When you board your traditional Turkish gulet in Kekova, the first thing you’ll see is Sebahat’s smiling face. She and her husband, Mehmet, live on the boat for eight months at a time, welcoming travellers and sailing the Mediterranean. She’s been working with Intrepid since 2008.

What’s the best part of your job?

Working for myself! Before this, I worked at farms and fish markets, but for the last 15 years I’ve been sailing along Turkey’s Mediterranean coast. I love getting to know so many people from all over the world.

What are the biggest challenges facing women in Turkey?

In the past, women weren’t involved in business. It was our daily job to take care of the house. But over the last decade, tourism has not only developed the economy of the region, but also the work environment. Women started helping their husbands, and then became their partners at work.

How does it feel to be a business leader?

I consider myself very lucky to be an example to other women in my town. Everyone should have fairness and equality. It doesn’t matter if women want to own a boat, cook or do anything else – what matters is their willingness and dedication. I can’t wait to mentor them.


Fatma Çelik | Driver 

Female bus driver in front of van in Turkey

Fatma with her van.

Fatma Çelik is a bit of a hero to us. She was the first female ambulance driver in Turkey, and she’s been driving Intrepid vehicles since April 2018. She’s got two kids and lives in Denizli, close to Pamukkale. Her friends call her Fatma Kaptan (‘captain’ is the title for drivers in Turkey).

How did you get this job?  

Ever since I learned to drive, I knew this was what I wanted to do. It was 18 years ago. I was going to apply as a cleaner in a hospital, but my friend reminded me about my ambition to be a driver. Suddenly I was holding the steering wheel of an ambulance! Over the year I worked as a bus driver too. For me, driving in Turkey is like finding your balance on a very thin rope in life.

What are the biggest challenges facing women in Turkey?

My gender has never been a struggle while driving. It’s hard to handle the bus in winter, but then it’s hard for men too! I’ve always felt respected by my colleagues.

What do you like about working for Intrepid?

Driving isn’t just my job. It’s my lifestyle. When I’m driving, I’m also getting to know people around my country. When I hold the steering wheel and people trust me, I forget all the stress in life. Being encouraged and taking responsibility are in my genes.


Want to learn more about Intrepid’s commitment to gender equality? Check out our policies and initiatives here.

This story was updated on 22 July 2019.

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