Dr. Esther L. Barazzone is the president of Chatham University. She holds a Ph.D. and M.A. in European Intellectual History from Columbia University, where she was a Fellow of the Faculty. She received a US Student Fulbright award to Spain and studied at the Wharton School of Business Administration and at Harvard University’s Institute for Educational Management. Dr. Barazzone has traveled extensively throughout her career and joined several international delegations, She is an active leader in the national higher education community and has served on many boards including the Council for International Exchange of Scholars (CIES), the Public Leadership Education Network (PLEN), the Presidents Climate Commitment, and the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Pennsylvania (AICUP). Dr. Barazzone has received many honors for her work at Chatham and in the community. She has also been recognized for her work on behalf of the advancement of women.
- Do you think men and women are equal in Turkey? What was your impression before you came to Turkey? Did your impression change when you got here?
I travel to learn and therefore I did not have a clear idea of females in Turkey. However, I saw that women in Turkey have more opportunities than women do in other Middle Eastern countries. In Scandinavian countries women have perfect equality with men, whilst in Turkey, as in the USA, it is more of a mixed situation with some equality and some restrictions on their liberty.
- Have you noticed any differences in the amount of freedom women have in different parts of Turkey?
Unfortunately my exposure to Turkish culture and daily life was confined to tourist places and so I saw more women without headscarves than those who were covered. I was a tourist and met women who had been exposed to tourists and a more international scene.
- Do you think middle and upper class women have more freedom than working class women in Turkey or do you think it is the opposite?
In general, for working class women the idea of freedom is removed from their lives as they have to work so hard to earn a living. In most cases, money provides opportunities for freedom as self supporting women are able to make certain life choices, such as being able to leave the children in childcare. The ideal is for a society to support women and allow them to be independent. For example, in Sweden, the government provides childcare and maternity leave in order to allow women to return to work. In countries like America, where you have to pay for your own day nurseries etc, you need to earn a certain amount of money to be able to afford to work. The higher status job a woman has, the more support she can buy in.
- How do Turkish women’s lives compare to the lives of women in other parts of the world?
There are women in all positions in Turkey. There are women who hold executive posts in large companies and there are women who earn very little money. Life is hard because the social structure available does not support them. It seems that women in Turkey must organize their own support networks, be it through money or through the help of families.
- Have you observed any differences between schools and education in Turkey and the USA?
Here I visited high level public universities which are much harder to get into than in the States. The exchange students who come here from America are in the top 0.5% of the country and they are challenged by the level of learning here. In conferences we encourage women to think big and to look to women who have done well as good examples.
- What advice do you give to women to get more control over their lives?
I encourage them to create their own lives and to get as well qualified as possible to increase the choices they have. Sadly, women need more credentials than men to do the same job as men. Women also must work hard to keep themselves up dated and self confident. When you know yourself and what you are capable of, more opportunities show themselves to you. So my advice to all women is to keep developing and to be aware of what is going on.
- What is Chatam College’s mission statement?
Here at Chatham College, we are dedicated to helping young women empower themselves. We help them train themselves to work as leaders in politics and society, and also in the environment and global community.
- What are the key messages you try to give them through Chatman College?
First and foremost women must believe in themselves and acquire the skills to have a good and confident life. With women it is a confidence issue because as I said before, they need to be better than men and more qualified than men to get the same opportunities that men have.
- How does religion play a role in this subject?
Religion influences everything in life and all aspects of society. Capitalism is greatly influenced by religion and the Protestant work ethic. Working hard is good and women who work hard and are clean are good, so both capitalism and this work ethic encourage women to go out to work and contribute financially to the family in the West. Islam also affects financial deals in that it is forbidden to make money out of loans in Islam.
- Is there a connection between smaller families and education?
A lot of studies show that the surest way to bring down the birth rate is to educate women. All women want the best for their children and educated women realize the need to have fewer children so that more money can be spent on them to give them a better start in life.
- Do you think that the internet is a liberating tool or is it putting men in more danger?
Access to knowledge is always a good thing. However, the Internet can encourage people to do things they would not do if they needed to ask for things publically. Like anything, the Internet has its advantages and drawbacks.