MÜNCİYE ÇAVUŞOĞLU
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MÜNCİYE ÇAVUŞOĞLU

THE FIRST WOMAN REPRESENTATIVE IN AVIATION

Interviewer: Huriye Beken, Tuğçe Ük
Place: Konyaaltı Caddesi
Date: 01.07.2015

Gallery

Interview


Who is Münciye Çavuşoğlu?
I was born in Konya in 1953. My grandfather was one of the richest men of Konya. He was the owner of the touristic Saray Hotel. My father worked with my grandfather. When Turkish Airlines decided to open an office in Konya they approached my grandfather as he was one of the notable citizens of the city and asked him for help in finding employees. On this occasion, my father started to work at Turkish Airlines. After the military coup in 1960 my father was transferred to Antalya. I was only six years old. I started elementary education at Dumlupınar Primary School. Later I continued at the Central Middle School, which was the only middle school in Antalya. The Vocational Courses Teacher from Antalya Commerce high School lived next to us. Ms. Zeynep used to live next to us and she was a professional courses teacher at the Antalya Commerce High School. With her insistence I started at the Antalya Commerce High School. There were two classes in the commerce high school. We had four girls in the class. At most there were 10-12 girls in the school. I took accounting and typing lessons. I had a good rapport with my teachers. My accounting teacher Ms. Süreyya liked me very much and I continue to see her today. My grandfather had a big house with a garden in Konya. He always told my father to send us children there even Here on vacation my father told me to send their children to even the shortest. At the top of the tree, in the gardens, I had a beautiful childhood. My grandfather had a big house with a garden in Konya. He always told my father to send us children to his place even during the shortest vacations. I spent a wonderful childhood at the top of trees and gardens. I don’t like house visit so much. Whenever I get bored I arrange a trip abroad. There are often SKAL meetings abroad. These trips do not exceed 10 days. Mu home is very important and I love to stay at home.

How did you start working life?
I started working at the age of 15 in Pegasus Turizm when I was in 9th grade. I was going to school in the morning. At noon when my school day finished I went to work. I worked for 3 years in Pegasus Turizm until the end of high school. After graduating from high school there was a period of anarchy in Turkey. My father said to me: “I'm not sending you to university; I can't send you when people are being killed in the streets.” But I insisted on continuing my education. So I enrolled in the Adana University of Economics and Commercial Sciences where attendance was non-compulsory. During this period Antalya Museum held an entrance exam. I started working as a civil servant at the Antalya Museum.

How did you start at Turkish Airlines?
The museum was just inaugurated. My father worked with Mr. Güray Bey as a station manager for Turkish Airlines. The Antalya Museum was the largest in the Balkans. My father and Mr. Güray came for a visit. The Museum Director Mr. Tanju wanted me to become a guide. Turkish Airlines Sales Manager Ömer Feza Nevsuhan was also among the visitors. He was constantly asking me questions as we were touring the museum. While Mr. Ömer Bey was leaving he asked me why I worked here instead of Turkish Airlines. I replied: “I would love to, but my father doesn’t give me permission.” Mr. Ömer said “Well then keep watch over these stones and later you can watch planes.” and left. They phoned soon from Turkish Airlines: “You’ve been reassigned to Turkish Airlines. Just get a medical report from a public hospital and send it to us.” I resigned from the Museum and began to work at Turkish Airlines in 1973. I became a supervisor in 1988. I worked as a director between 1990 and 2005.

What was it like to work at Turkish Airlines?
Turkish Airlines was in its take-off stage. I became a director during Cem Kozlu’s tenure. Cem Kozlu was an outstanding personality and had a great work ethic. He knew how to motivate people. Up to that time retired generals were usually appointed as general managers. These generals had a very serious demeanour because of the highly disciplined education they received and wouldn’t even greet us. Then Cem Kozlu became general manager and this was like a release for us. He took the first steps that would later propel Turkish Airlines. I became director on 1 September, 1990. In 1990 there were 4 flights to Istanbul and two flights to Istanbul per week. When I left there were 16-17 flights per day.

How were you as a manager?
I was a very good manager at Turkish Airlines. I had an excellent team and they were very loyal to me. Turkish Airlines gave its employees the right to free tickets and I used to travel abroad with whichever employee was available at that period. Whenever I go to the airport they still come up to me. This makes me so happy. When I became director I was sent flowers for two months. I was receiving congratulation flowers each day from those who learned the news. Getting these flowers made me very emotional. I always hugged my secretary and cried. My secretary was also my closest friend. The inspection came. Our accounting manager and I took the inspectors to lunch. They asked me how I was able to build up this arrangement. “How did you create this structure? You go to lunch with us inspectors and you two seem to be like very intimate friends. But when you return to your workplace you revert to a strictly professional character. How did you establish this balance?” I replied to them that I was friends with my employees after hours, but their manager at the workplace. No one tried to take advantage of this situation.

After your retirement from Turkish Airlines in 2005 did you continue to work or called it quits?
After retiring I thought that I can sit at home all the time. But I could only sit still for 6 months. A friend of mine opened a fitness centre. She wanted me to create a management system in the fitness centre and I worked with her for a while. Ebru Türel came to the centre for skin care. My friendship with her husband Mayor Menderes Türel over the years led to the blossoming of my friendship with Ms. Ebru. In the meantime, my father passed away and I quit my job at the fitness centre. Ms. Ebru learned that I quit and offered me a position at Ajans Form. My father had only recently passed away and I didn’t know anything about the printing sector. I wasn’t in the mood to work at least for a certain period. Ms. Ebru said to me that I could start whenever I felt ready and that she would offer support me workwise. So I accepted. I got bored sitting at home and began at Ajans Form on 23 April 2007 where I continue to work.

How were your business relationships?
Yusuf Hacısüleyman and his wife have been very good friends of mine for many years. They were looking for certified personnel for their future agency. In those years it was difficult to open an agency. I told them that I could send them to a course where both of them could get a certificate that enabled them to operate an agency. A course was opened in Alanya. Ms. Serap and Mr. Yusuf attend the course, received their certificates and opened their agency. Mr. Yusuf is a very good hotelier. While working at Turkish Airlines we would host all the agencies, which sold our tickets, in Antalya. Our General Manager Yusuf Bolayırlı wanted to organise such events in Antalya.  The agency would bring 500 guests and we would host them. At that time Yusuf Hacısüleyman was working in Aquamarine. We organised so many outstanding events together. When there was a rift with Israel, we would immediately invite Israeli agencies over here. Once we had organised a yacht tour for the agency representatives. We got in touch with the Coast Guard. To show them that Turkey was a safe destination for Israelis, a coast guard boat accompanied us during the whole trip. The Israelis were very happy.

How many women were working at Turkish Airlines when you were there?
In 1973, when I first started, we were 3 people. It didn’t have a very crowded line-up. Turkish Airlines preferred to have more women employees. They especially preferred women in the counters.  Many daughters from military families worked at Turkish airlines. Since they had precedence we couldn’t become supervisors for 10-15 years. Military children were much sought after in our time. In later years men were still in the majority, but the number of female employees wasn’t negligible.

After becoming a manager did you have a say in the recruitment of women?
I never differentiated according to gender. I chose those whom I thought would be capable in doing that job. But I selected many female employees from Camel Tour. I was steering the women around me. My secretary and accounting manager were women. There was another male accounting manager. We didn’t get along and later he moved abroad. I promoted almost all of my female employees as supervisors.

How high was the number of women who travelled?
In the past everyone would travel with their husbands. There weren’t any women who travelled alone. I know more men in Antalya. I haven’t met many of their wives.

What was social life in Antalya like in those years?
In that period people use to come together during the day. My father had a close circle of friends.  For example when were children and lived in Yenikapı my father came from work and set to meet with his friends. We would immediately pack up and go to Karaalioğlu Park for a picnic. We went to the beach on weekends. In the summer we moved to Lara. The friendships we had there were wonderful. Neighbourly relations were also quite different. My mother broke her hip and had to convalesce for three months. All of our neighbours came and prepared our meals and did the cleaning in turn during those three months. We used to play in the streets day and night. We grew up without any worries. My father completely trusted my sisters and I. Even my mother would say to my father that he pampered us. When I was in high school my male friends would come and pick me up from home. We used to go to the stadium and watch basketball and volleyball matches together. Since everyone knew each other we had a very relaxed childhood and adolescence. They never told not to go here or there. Besides I wasn’t the type who could be constrained. I’m still not. I’m the sort of person who can go anywhere as I please without asking my husband. Earlier a film I saw in a cinema in Konya was shown in Antalya two years later. In my middle school years I used to go to Konya to see an artist in concert. That same artist would come to Antalya at a much later time. Today Antalya has come a long way.

Did you receive any negative reactions as a working woman in that period?
I never received any negative reaction from my husband or my surroundings. We used to leave work late at night around 10:00 p.m. Within Karaalioğlu Park there were the housing units of Ziraat Bank.  My co-worker Ms. Emine lived there. We used to live at Pali Bahçe apartment. After work we would walk home. No one would make a pass at us or bother us. They only asked us if there were available flights the next day or seats left. I didn’t like house visits. I used to get bored at home during the weekends and couldn’t wait until it was Monday, so I could get to work. I cannot sit idly by and watch television at home. I'm either knitting or reading a book .I love to keep busy.

Today there is still a segment in society that feels uneasy about women who work and assert themselves. Can we say that Antalya was more progressive and liberal at that time? 
We never experienced such things. As I said before, 10:00 p.m. was a very late hour for Antalya. You didn’t see many people in the streets after 10:00 p.m. We two girls were very unworried when we walked home. Compared to today, we could have behaved more fearful and cautious. The current generation is far more relaxed. Now when it gets pitch-dark I start to walk home faster. At that time there was nothing like that. Everyone knew us and we knew everyone. One day someone started following me. He was pursuing my while I was walking. Of course, this scared me very much. A relative of a school friend saw me across the street. But I wasn't aware of it out of fear. When he realised that I was scared he came up to me and said: “Don’t be afraid and keep walking. I’ll walk just behind you, don’t worry.” He knew me from school, but we never even greeted each other before. He escorted me to the office. In the past people had such protective instincts. We used to stroll much more relaxed.
 
What is it like to be working woman and a mother?
It was very difficult in our time. Thank God that I had the support of my mother. Now we have domestic help. Where were you going to find such help in Antalya back in the day? It was hard to find someone who would constantly help you out at home. Today everything is easier. My mother and sisters helped raise my children. Maternity leave covered 45 days before birth and 45 days afterwards. I had maternity leave for both of my children. I gave birth to my first child after 17 days of maternity leave and for my second child after 15 days. The remaining days after the births weren’t counted. When my babies were 40 days old I left them to my mother and started working again. I loved my career, but it would have been impossible without my mother’s help. I tried to do my best for both of my children. In my free times I always tried to spend time with them. After they became slightly older, I went on a week's holiday alone with them. Their father came during the weekends. My children and I are like friends.

Are you happy living in Antalya?
I’m very happy. It’s the most wonderful place and city. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

What is it like to be a woman in Antalya?
I didn’t experience any restrictions or curfews. I also used to hang out with my male friends from school. We organised pantomime nights. To do this, I worked in art school. If we were 3 girls, there were 5 boys next to us. I’m happy to live as a woman in Antalya. When I became director, I went everywhere on my own. People didn’t talk behind my back. I would go to tourism meetings. The Kemer Tourism Director and myself were the only women in the protocol list. All the rest were men. No one showed disdain or looked down on me. On the contrary, everyone treated me with respect.

Were there any role models in your life or anyone who gave you encouragement?
There were no working women around me. Everyone was at home. My teachers Ms. Zeynep and Ms. Süreyya were very influential. Ms. Süreyya used to tell me: “You will move up in the world, you’re a clever girl.” One day she said to my husband: “I’m telling you, this woman will reach places. “ Years later we met at the opening ceremony of Sheraton Hotel. I told her that I became the director of the Antalya office of Turkish Airlines. I’m sure that I didn’t let him down. Even during my school days I always tried to manage affairs in school. I would be the intermediary between students and teachers. When it was report card time my teachers trusted me to write the report cards for them. As the oldest sister I used to babysit my siblings when my parents went out. I think that’s why I was able to establish ownership and authority in my adult years.

How did you get started in Rotary and SKAL?
Yaşar Sobutay was the founder of the Kaleiçi Rotary Club. My friendship with Mr. Yaşar goes way back. In 1990 Güven Lüleci called me. He told that they were establishing an association and wanted me to join them. That’s how I got started in Rotary. As Aspendos Rotary we were the third Rotary club in Antalya. I’ve been a Rotarian since 1990. I was in the board for many years and I’ve chaired it for three years. One day Salih Çene from SKAL came to me and said they wanted to make me an honorary member. I became an honorary member in 1990 and later a regular member. During the presidency of Salih Çene we were invited to a dinner. There I was offered a membership in the board. I joined the board and I’m currently the president. I’m in my second year as president. I love these associations. I especially love SKAL. It’s a more enjoyable association. Since it is an international association we are able to make friends from all over the world. We planted a SKAL forest in Belek. Our new project is that we are preventing the destruction of swallow nests in hotels. We entered an international competition with this project. We have a soap project. The small soaps that are being used in hotels are collected and sent to a soap factory in Gaziantep where they are reprocessed. These new soaps are then distributed to prisons and child care centres. We support the education of 50-60 students. Many good projects are emerging.
 
What advice would you like to give young women?
First of all they have to be true to themselves. I would advise them to persist and pursue whatever is right for them. They should be inquisitive. For example, if someone tells me not to cross a street, I definitely have to cross that street and see for myself. I can't be easily convinced of what anyone says without forming my own opinion and experience. I’d rather trust a woman than a man. That man who told me not to cross the street probably said it for no particular reason. People need to set things right from the beginning. In addition, all women should get an education and definitely work. No matter what anyone says, things run more smoothly where women are present. I believe that women are more successful in business life. A working person has more self-confidence. I had this lady who came to my house for domestic help. She could only attend primary school. She was such a hard worker and made sure that both of her children continued school. She bought her own house, car and even directs her husband. I like smart women. Women should be self-confident and smart.  They should never let themselves be oppressed by men. I saw to it that many girls received an education. The daughter of this lady was prevented to go to school by her brothers. I insisted that she would get an education. I bought her uniform, books and sent her to school. She finished middle school, high school and university. I attach great importance to education. This is why I like associations and clubs so much. They are instrumental in providing an education for many children.
 
MÜNCİYE ÇAVUŞOĞLU