Saturday, March 31, 2007

One great Spiderwoman

It is 1.52 at night at the campus of the Sabanci university outside Istanbul. We sit in the lobby of the hotel longing for the wine that ended too early. People are falling into bizarre conversations on topics from shaving your balls to Georgian wine. Good time to write a blog entry.

Part of the programme of the Network Effect today was a visit to a Turkish women's organisation called Kagider. It is an organisation of 151 female entrepeneurs willing to improve the position of women in the Turkish business life.

As a professional conference attendee my expectations were not too high for this visit. I was ready for a few hours of discussion about organisational challenges and politically correct blah-blah. But these women really charged up my batteries. They are powerful leaders in the business sector but they also are courageous enough to take a personal stand and get involved in societal development. They support the notion that people with the position and the skills have a responsibility towards the society they belong to. Their views on the development of Turkey really fueled me up. These women stated that the need to improve gender equality is not an issue pushed forward with the EU card but it is a realisation from within.

In the Network Effect in Amsterdam in June 2006 I gave a presentation on "a theory" I came up with called the Spiderman Effect. My main point in that presentation was very much what Kagider is doing: people with the skills and connections can and should play a role in developing their society. The most astonishing of the women was Munheta. She is leading a cleaning company with 2.000 employees. She gave a powerful testimony on how she wants to develop her society as a woman who came from Eastern Turkey who made it. "I want to offer a possibility for university students to enter our debates early enough in order to stimulate them to go further. I am really passionate about this. In a way let them breathe the same air as we do and in that sense build up the feeling that making it is also a possibility for them."

She really impressed me. These are the people who make the difference. Munheta is a good reminder that when we look at companies we should pay more attention on the people in them. We can plan a lot of policies but people are in the end the ones that need to get up from their comfort zone and get things moving.

p.s. The poster in the picture is a campaign of the Turkish feminist movement for the upcoming parliament elections. The woman in the picture is one of the leading figures of Kagider. The text says:"Do you have to be a man to get to the parliament?" Once again: it is about individuals, getting involved, taking risks.

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