World Economic Forum’s yearly report on gender inequality, “Global Gender Gap Report”, aims to quantify gender disparity on four key topics of health, education, economy and politics. Unfortunately, years of collective data shows that progress of closing the gap is still too slow for realizing the full potential of one half of humanity within our lifetimes. 

As women make up one half of the human capital available to any economy, over time narrowed gender gap has been shown to positively correlate with competitiveness. Turkey is currently 16th largest economy in the world but only ranks 51st in global competitiveness index and 130th in the Global Gender Gap Index. So closing this gap may help Turkey improve its competitiveness. While investments have been made in developing Turkey’s human capital especially in education and health, the country is not reaping full returns from these investments.

Originating from the Turkey’s rank 2016 Global Gender Gap Index, Istanbul Hub decided to take on the initiative of launching campaign on women empowerment in Turkey. As initial steps of this campaign Istanbul Hub has collaborated with KAGIDER (The Women Entrepreneurs Association of Turkey) which does not only focus on economic empowerment but social and political empowerment of Turkish women, to identify and interview role models of successful women entrepreneurs who started from zero and gained their economic independence through and inspiring journey. The interviews have been formed in a written way, expressed milestones, challenges, difficulties and success stories of women entrepreneurs, and will be shared through multiple online channels.  

In terms of impressive entrepreneurial stories from successful women, for instance, Zeynep Arca, Co-founder and Chairwoman of the board, Arcadia Vineyards, has an educational background on viniculture and internship experience at vineyards and wineries in several countries. She developed her interest at the theoretical level late in 20s and has overcome many challenges such as finding consultancy in the viniculture, gaining trust of local people around the vineyard area in the first years of the Arcadia project. As another instance, Aslı Elif Tanuğur, Co-Founder of Bee’o (also Bee&You abroad), has been awarded as Turkey's Promising Female Entrepreneur with her enterprise having the aim of producing the propolis that hasn’t been produced in Turkey before and getting access to everyone, as providing a cure for her son’s illness and enabling to strengthen his immunity. No doubt that some entrepreneurial minds rely on the social awareness. Melis Büyüksan, Founder of Medlis, demonstrates a particular profile for that. After she observed the living conditions of disabled people in European countries and lack of opportunities in Turkey, she decided to found her own business at the age of 23 to produce portable ramps as the first enterprise in Turkey. Despite several difficulties such as being a female founder in the production area, communication with employees, control of materials, she has now a company that exports to Europe, offers accessibility products at 1.500 points domestically and comes into demands of South Africa, Europe, United Kingdom and Russia. Nothing remains unsolved with the courage and determination. As a remarkable example of this case, Tülin Akın, Co-Founder of Tabit, founded which is Turkey’s first communication, e-learning and e-commerce site in the agricultural area for farmers, product suppliers and companies. She visited 12.000 villages in order to make the farmers familiar with computer and mobile technologies and developed an SMS modelling that aims to improve agricultural yield and profits by providing farmers advice on crops, weather and market prices. Akın also accomplished modelling the farmers’ credit card in cooperation with a private bank.  She created the idea of first technology-based smart village in the world that aims to increase the efficiency of production with communication and information technologies and to improve the living standards of the rural producers with qualified information by combining the traditional methods agricultural methods with advanced technology. She was awarded as the Social Entrepreneur of the Year and nominated for the Nobel Prize in the field “Work for Peace”.

Approaching the International Women’s Day, March 8th, Istanbul Shapers feel proud to undertake a project responsibility on raising the awareness for women’s active participation on national economy and highlight the issue within the perspective of women entrepreneurs by increasing best practice- and knowledge-sharing at the local level. Following the vision of representing the Istanbul Hub at global and regional meetings of World Economic Forum by young leading female Shapers, Global Shapers Istanbul will keep promoting this topic in forthcoming terms.