Continuity in the Midst of Change
At the same time as they were saluted as national heroines of the Turkish development project, factory women entered the industrial workplace as subordinate individuals and worked in a strictly hierarchical labor market divided by sex. The gendered notions of women’s “suitability” as cheap, docile, and dexterous laborers for labor-intensive work lay behind the demand for their labor. Unsurprisingly, they were concentrated in manual, low-tech occupations and were paid accordingly, their wage being seen as supplementary “pin” money for a household although women who “chose” factory work were mostly young girls and women in poverty-ridden families. The more capital intensive, supervisory and higher paid jobs within factories were confined to men.
After many years of insistent efforts of both the state and industrialists, the number of factory women did not rise to desired levels, even long after the state-led industrialization took off in Turkey. The main reason behind this was the high degree of continuity with the past in the gendered labor hierarchies, despite the novelty claims of the republican regime, which elevated women to a status of markers of progress. Female industrial work followed similar patterns, keeping factory women at the bottom of gendered labor hierarchies.