Closing the Gender Gap in Turkey

Turkish Women’s International Network (TurkishWIN) seeks to inspire and connect female leaders in Turkey and abroad with stories that convey whole hearted stories and inspiration. The goal is simple: utilizing the power of video and the format of TED talks, it provides wings to women’s stories, unleashing the economic power of women by inspiring and connecting them across the homeland and in the Turkish diaspora.

TurkishWIN strives to be a platform that brings together women by enabling the exchange of ideas, networks, and experiences across borders. Hearing about the success story of one woman may ignite the flame of success in another.

Some of us are lucky enough to have a mentor, advisor, or a friend who will share best practices and inspiration. Others are story seekers, like a 15-year old young woman named Tugce Uysal.

Her story is centered around her love for robotics. She presented her story at a TurkishWIN event, where it was recorded and shared at turkishwin.com. A woman in the TurkishWIN network, a Turkish aerospace engineer from UC Berkley Space Lab, watched Tugce’s talk and—feeling inspired by her passion for robotics—tapped into the network to become her mentor.

This is how TurkishWIN connects successful female leaders, inspiring them to pursue their dreams and empowering them through sharing their stories. At TurkishWIN, we aim to provide one-on-one mentoring, as in the case of Tugce, to meet our goals.

We recognize that not only our ethnicity or connection to a homeland gives us another source of connection but also our values: curiosity, generosity, courage and transparency. We connect women who have cultural, professional, or family ties to Turkey around a digital bonfire of their stories.

TurkishWIN is now active in Boston, London, New York, San Francisco and Istanbul. We are inspired to connect the dots worldwide to engage women to share their wisdom, connections, and stories.

Our target audience consists of women who are on a journey to realize their potential. Whether they are already in the work force, or enrolled at universities, these women are on the move—they are seeking role models, stories, and inspiration. Our platform enables the exchange of ideas, networks and experiences through WEB TV Talks, win-win connections, mentoring, and campusWIN programs.

Elif Ece Demiral is currently a PhD candidate in gender inequality at Georgetown University. She is one of our campus leaders, and her experiences influenced her present interests.

After joining our network two years ago as a sophomore at Bilgi University, she was assigned a mentor and learned how to network. At a TurkishWIN event, she met with a Kiva fellow and did an internship at Maya, an economical enterprise working on microcredit in Turkey.

Another campus leader, Pinar Yalcin, was similarly inspired by TurkishWIN to start the first women in business club in Turkey. She now works for Boeing in Seattle.

Our mentees are empowered, not only by their mentor (one woman), but also—collectively—by the stories of other women in the TurkishWIN network. The events and talks provide an open dialogue for talented Turkish women to relate with women who have dealt with similar circumstances.

In addition to matching students to professionals, we match professionals to professionals, and entrepreneurs to entrepreneurs. Our tech entrepreneurship program, TechConnect, focuses only on tech or biotech entrepreneurs. 

Despite having been through significant educational improvements, Turkey faces a large gender gap, due to cultural norms and gender biases that have women facing barriers to accessing education and equal opportunity in employment. Turkey ranks 124th among 135 countries in gender equity, according to the WEF Global Gender Gap Index 2012. Only 14 percent of women participate in politics, and the female labor force participation rate is below 30 percent.

What can we infer from these figures? First, women clearly need assistance to prepare themselves for the modern workplace. More important, Turkish women need positive role models that balance the demands of family and career in our traditional culture. 

To solve these issues, Turkey needs to tap into the unrealized potential of all her citizens— men and women—in order to propel future growth. TurkishWIN’s mission is pursuing this solution by helping Turkish women realize their potential. Stories about women that realize their potential, on their own terms, accelerate other women’s ability to realize their untapped potential.

As the number of TurkishWIN talks and their reach increase to millions from its current reach of 40,000, the number of online or offline inspirational connections and outcomes will also grow. We aim to scale-up our change model, and leave a global footprint.

At TurkishWIN, we believe in scale, the power of video, and the curiosity of women who are searching for role models on the Web or by networking. This one-to-many model of digital mentoring allows us to democratize access to inspiration and connection.

This is the one-to-many model of digital mentoring. Get your communities’ stories online! Get your story online! 

 

Editor’s Note: This article was written by Melek Pulatkonak, Founder/Curator of TurkishWIN, and Ayse Nur Ozcan, Executive Director at TurkishWIN.

For this article in Turkish, visit the GE Türkiye BlogFollow #womenWork on Twitter to receive the latest on innovation trends and competition news.

 

Ayse is a globetrotter with experience in social business and NGOs in Asia, Africa, Europe and U.S. Most recently, she was the General Manager of a Microfinance Institution in Turkey. She has a B.S.c. in Political Sciences from Sabanci University and M.A. in European Studies from King’s College, London. Ayse is our Executive Director responsible for the mentoring program, international chapters and corporate partnerships.