KUGEP is a dynamic document that is reviewed annually to make necessary revisions and updates. The plan is also designed to work with other institutional policies and plans, such as the HR Excellence in Research Award, the UN Global Compact, and the larger SDG 2030 Agenda framework. Additionally, KUGEP addresses the gendered effects of potential disruptions to higher education and takes up the responsibility of developing a macro-level institutional plan to future-proof essential processes, operations, and employee well-being. Overall, KUGEP is an integrated policy document designed to create a more inclusive institution where every talent can reach its full potential.
For the Koç University Gender Equality Plan (KUGEP), the Gender Equality Committee and Coordinator collected data from various academic and administrative units to assess the state of gender equality at the university and identify areas for improvement. To gain a comprehensive understanding of the institution, the committee collected gender disaggregated data of various groups, such as academic and administrative staff, including research teams, and undergraduate and graduate students. This data included information on the number of absence days, maternal leave requests, sabbatical applications, faculty promotions, academic and administrative leadership positions, as well as teaching awards and recognition. Other relevant data points collected included research project applications, primary investigators of research projects, patent applications, and scholarly publications and impact.
The data collected by the committee also included information on student disciplinary investigations, including cases of sexual harassment, recruitment, retention, and exits, and career movements of administrative staff, such as promotions and rotations. Performance evaluations of academics and administrative staff were also taken into consideration. To capture the personal experiences and narratives of employees, an online survey was conducted by a committee member approved by the Koç University Ethical Committee. The survey, titled ``Perceptions and Experiences of Employees on Gender Equality,`` was conducted between March and April 2022. The Gender Equality Coordinator also conducted unstructured interviews from April to June 2022, and analyzed institutional policy handbooks, procedures and regulations, KU job advertisements, and mission and vision documents.
The KUGEP action items are categorized into seven main sections. An overview of these sections and their contents is provided below:
Koç University's strengths in gender equality include a founding principle and strong focus on the issue, an active ecosystem with various gender-related projects, and efficient data infrastructure. However, gender equality has not been explicitly integrated into the university's strategy or mission documents. The lack of central coordination on gender equality issues and initiatives across different units or stakeholder groups also limits the effective diffusion of strategic initiatives and leadership endorsement throughout the organization.
To address these challenges, Koç University's KUGEP proposes several action items, including building a sustainable and dynamic data collection and reporting structure for gender equality monitoring, producing a comprehensive gender equality status report every year, allocating necessary resources to Gender Equality Coordinatorship, consolidating all gender equality efforts in the institution under Gender Equality Coordinatorship, integrating Gender Equality Coordinator into organizational structures, processes and committees, and appointing Gender Equality Ambassadors in all academic and administrative units.
Other proposed actions include effective transition to gender budgeting, starting an awareness-raising campaign promoting the usage of gender-sensitive language in all internal and external communication of the institution, constant benchmarking of good practices for gender equality, and integrating gender equality initiatives into larger Koç University SDG framework.
Koç University has established an organizational culture that values and welcomes all employees. KU complies with national laws regarding labor regulations, offers paternity leave, provides resources for virtual training and development activities, offers an Employee Assistance Program, and has ample lactation rooms and an affordable kindergarten. Flexible work options and extensive learning and development opportunities are also available. While social practices are inclusive, there is no institutional mechanism to support staff after career breaks, and the general understanding of care responsibilities is too narrow. Women academics struggle more with work-life balance, which has been exacerbated by the pandemic.
To address these issues, Koç University aims to promote work-life balance and a family-friendly workplace. The university plans to raise awareness about the need for organizational culture change, extend parental benefits to all employees, establish a funding scheme to support research after family-related breaks, redefine care responsibilities in policies and regulations, and develop work-life balance learning and development programs for academic staff.
Additionally, the university aims to reduce gender inequalities in academic care labor and promote the equal distribution of administrative tasks. To achieve this, KU will establish a Care and Equality Task Force, gather data on gendered practices of academic care labor and unequal distribution of administrative tasks, raise awareness about gendered academic care work, and include academic care labor and administrative work in performance evaluations.
Finally, KU plans to future-proof the well-being of its employees and prepare for future shocks like Covid-19 by developing an institutional framework to increase adaptive capacity and institutional resilience. Targeted efforts will protect employees against gendered effects on work-life balance and productivity.
According to the KUGEP, Koç University has made progress in promoting gender balance in leadership positions, with a significant number of women in academic and administrative leadership roles. However, there is still room for improvement in achieving gender equality in decision-making, especially in fields such as medical sciences, technology, energy, and entrepreneurship. The lack of institutional support mechanisms, such as mentoring or training programs for female employees, has been identified as a weakness.
To address these issues, the KUGEP outlines several objectives and actions, including maintaining gender balance in leadership positions and decision-making committees, mainstreaming gender in leadership culture and decision-making, and developing the leadership capacities of women through support mechanisms such as mentoring, training programs, and peer networking opportunities. Achieving gender balance in search committees and the leadership of research centers and advisory and executive boards are also identified as specific actions. Gender equality trainings for leadership and management levels, as well as performance evaluation criteria to promote gender equality, are also proposed. These actions aim to promote gender equality and empower women in leadership positions at Koç University.
Although Koç University has a high ratio of female employees, the distribution of gender among academic departments and administrative units is uneven, with some departments having a significantly low number of women. Additionally, women leave the institution in larger numbers, especially in their first few years, and there is a need for institutional structures and support programs dedicated to the development of certain professional skills of female employees to prepare them for leadership roles. Institutional procedures and practices need to be reviewed to standardize recruitment and career support structures for early career researchers, and job advertisements require a critical gender-sensitive lens.
To improve gender equality in recruitment and career progression, Koç University has developed several objectives and actions. These include achieving gender balance in recruitment and promotion committees, providing implicit bias training to all recruitment committee members and recruiters, standardizing job advertisements, developing specialized and proactive outreach activities to attract women candidates, establishing institutional monitoring and evaluation mechanisms of female turnover, and building a sustainable and reportable exit survey and interview structure for academic and administrative employees and R1 researchers exit.
Current Strengths & Weaknesses: Koç University has a strong focus on gender research, with KOÇ-KAM serving as an interdisciplinary hub for gender research and a competitive funding program to support outstanding academic research projects on gender issues. However, there is a lack of awareness and knowledge on the integration of gender analysis through research among academics and research management staff. There is also no clear commitment to incorporating gender equality through research conducted at KU, and women are significantly underrepresented in technology transfer and commercialization stages.
To address these issues, the KUGEP recommends several objectives and actions. These include achieving gender balance in research teams and labs by raising awareness and encouraging research leaders to make gender-conscious choices regarding recruitment. The program also recommends raising awareness of gender mainstreaming in research through campaigns and developing an online library and course for doctoral students.
To increase the visibility of gender-specific research and female researchers, the KUGEP recommends establishing institutional mechanisms to provide effective presentation and dissemination of gender-specific research results and outcomes. The program also recommends guidance and support for female researchers to promote and increase the visibility of their research, as well as institutional support to promote and increase the visibility of the research outputs of KU researchers on women-specific issues.
To improve gender diversity in STEM, the KUGEP recommends establishing networks and mentoring schemes for female scientists and researchers in STEM and sharing personal narratives and behind-the-scenes stories of female scientists through seminar series.
Finally, to enhance and inclusive innovation and entrepreneurship framework, the KUGEP recommends conducting an overall institutional assessment of the innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem of the institution to see if it is inclusive of all genders. The program also recommends developing specialized support and mentoring programs for female employees and doctoral students who have innovative and entrepreneurial potential.
At Koç University, there is a significant disparity in the ratio of female students in various departments, with STEM fields having the lowest share of female students. Gender studies is a strong part of the course offerings, but it is mostly housed in the College of Social Sciences and Humanities and College of Administrative Sciences and Economics. The lack of gender dimension in courses offered in STEM and medical sciences needs to be addressed through curriculum analysis and mapping. The leadership of the institution needs to prioritize gender mainstreaming and incentivize gender-sensitive pedagogies among teaching staff. A central communication and coordination point is missing to map and create synergy among students engaging in curricular and co-curricular activities on gender-related issues.
To improve the situation, the KUGEP proposes to undertake a curriculum analysis and course mapping, build an online library and course for teaching staff on gender mainstreaming, organize a workshop for faculty on integrating gender dimension into curricula, and create a funding scheme for teaching staff who want to design or revise curriculum and teaching materials for inclusive classroom and gender-sensitive pedagogy. The plan also suggests engaging students through KU Gender Equality Plan as an institutional source, organizing workshops and developing a collaborative teaching course on gender equality. Efforts of gender mainstreaming in teaching will be rewarded and incentivized through a funding scheme. Finally, the plan proposes to engage alumni by establishing a close connection between the Gender Equality Office and the Alumni Office and developing joint projects with KU alumni.
Koç University has a clear Sexual Harassment Prevention Regulation in place and investigates gender-based violence cases with utmost diligence. Counseling Service Unit (KURES) provides professional psychological support and counseling to students, and KU students and employees are required to take online Sexual Harassment Awareness Training. However, the institution needs to improve its complaint mechanisms and maintain the work-life balance of staff managing operations and investigation committees. There is an opportunity to develop new and improved training materials that are inclusive and cover a wide range of staff, including those who are most likely to be the first-responder to such cases.
To address these issues, Koç University aims to improve its processes for sustainable services, form a task force, develop more efficient and effective complaint and support mechanisms, diagnose financial, reorganization, human resources, digitalization, and training needs to improve the process, and develop easy-to-understand materials explaining the sexual harassment complaint and disciplinary process. Additionally, the institution plans to update all existing training materials, develop an institution-wide training program on critical first response to harassment complaints, and make it mandatory for every academic and administrative employee in close-contact with students to take the training program.