We explore the role of paid work in women's empowerment in Turkey by analyzing the variation in employment status and occupational position of Turkish women according to socio-economic and geographic background characteristics, characteristics of their marriage, and gender role attitudes. Being employed is seen as a major instrument in making women less dependent on their families and freeing them from the suppressing influence of patriarchal ideologies. However, only 35% of married women are gainfully employed and half of them work as (family) farm workers. Women engaged in the formal economy are more highly educated, have husbands with higher occupations, have fewer children, live in the West and urban areas, are less suppressed by their families and have less traditional gender role attitudes. Not speaking Turkish is a major obstacle to economic independency for ethnic women. Findings basically support the U-curve hypothesis which predicts that with increasing modernization female employment first decreases and then increases. However, the effects of modernization are overshadowed by the strong influence of patriarchal ideology that tends to confine Turkish women to the private domain. The major way out of the web of patriarchal restrictions seems to be via education. (C) 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.