Connecting the Continents

Photography by Susan Ely.

Photography by Susan Ely.

Every year, the Commission on the Status of Women shines a spotlight on the global pervasiveness of gender injustice, but what is even more important is the groundswell of advocacy and inspiration needed to combat it. On the evening of March 16, the Metro NY chapter ignited just that.

Our Connecting the Continents panel and networking event brought together a diverse group of influential Turkish and US entrepreneurs and businesswomen. Honorary guests included the leaders and graduates of Kagider, a world-renowned Turkish organization that trains young women through an educational, employment, and entrepreneurship program.

The event was hosted at the boldly feminist Pen and Brush gallery, where the walls were adorned with Michela Martello’s new exhibit The Future is Goddess, setting the tone for the rich panel discussion. Panelists reflected on their journeys as trailblazing innovators, shared insights behind their successes, and illustrated how overcoming cultural barriers in any endeavor can be as much a universal certainty as it is a struggle – you just need the right support, resources, and above all, positive attitude, to get there.

Moderated by Jade Gunver, the panel included: president of Kagider Women’s Entrepreneurs’ Association of Turkey, Sanem Oktar; president of Katolye Gayrimenkul ve Yonetim Danisma A.S., Servisîmin Cömert Birced, also of Kagider; Geri Stengel, founder of Ventureneer; and Donnetta Campbell, Founder and Lead Architect of The Social Architects.

Despite acknowledging the fact that women-owned businesses worldwide are (on average) smaller than men’s, and women of color’s businesses being disproportionately even smaller, the panelists left each other and their guests feeling empowered with their invaluable business shortcuts and snippets of life wisdom. Gunver encapsulated the essence of the night: “As women we truly need one another to believe in each other. Because once we find just one other woman who believes in us, it gives us the courage we need.”

Wanting to become an entrepreneur always has been, and is considered, a “crazy” endeavor. But the one thing that’s changed exponentially is the access to that encouragement through digital networking. So if these inspiring women were able to pioneer their paths with far fewer resources and role models, and less technology than is available today, this next generation can do it too.

Through the incalculable value of social media and unrelenting determination, Zeynep Begum Oder (the first of now 500 graduates from Kagider) shared her story as a shining example: “Even if you were born in a small city, even if you don’t speak perfect English and have an accent like me, even if you are an immigrant, this shouldn’t be an excuse for you not to achieve your dreams. Believe in the power of women and don’t give up your dreams.”

Photography by Susan Ely.

Photography by Susan Ely.

Photography by Susan Ely.

Photography by Susan Ely.

Photography by Susan Ely.

Photography by Susan Ely.

Mikki Brammer