In 2017, AETS was awarded a contract by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) to provide technical assistance for the improvement of equal opportunities and practices in the Turkish electricity distribution company, TREDAS and the electricity retail company TREPAS, both of which are owned by the Turkish ICEL group. This 18-month project, which was undertaken by the GEDH department, aimed to increase the number of women in the TREDAS and TREPAS workforce and ensure a women-friendly workplace environment. Now, following the technical assistance provided by AETS in the scope of this project, TREDAS and TREPAS have been awarded the gold award for Environmental & Social Best Practice at the 2019 EBRD Sustainability Awards.
The project was, from the get-go, set in a difficult gender labour context, with Turkey ranking the lowest across EBRD Countries of Operations with a meagre 37.5% of female labour force participation in 2017 (in contrast with 78.2% of men). The low result in terms of female labour force participation is usually linked to persistent occupational segregation in terms of gender and social norms relating to women’s roles as mothers and caregivers. In addition, TREDAS and TREPAS, are companies in a traditionally male-dominated sector (the power sector). TREDAS began the process with a very low rate of female employment of (15%), compared to the global best practice of up to 25%. Only 1% of employees in technical roles and 12% in engineering roles were women. Although TREPAS boasted a superior rate of female employment (51%), women only held 1 in 13 management positions.
With the technical assistance provided by AETS, TREDAS and TREPAS were able to develop and implement an ambitious Equal Opportunities Programme and Gender Action Plan. The EBRD-funded project enabled TREDAS and TREPAS to widen their capacity building activities to employees of all levels and allowed the companies to introduce some innovative solutions to barriers faced by women, such as activities for secondary school pupils which can help create qualified female candidates for the future. Practices such as encouraging work-life balance, ensuring access to learning opportunities, collecting gender satisfaction data and allowing for anonymous reporting of ethical violations were also introduced.