Written by Şelale Kadak for Sabah Newspaper. Written by Şelale Kadak for Sabah Newspaper
In 2014 Turkey became the newest member of the International Women’s Forum (IWF), which gathers the world’s women leaders under one umbrella. The IWF requested the attendance of Prof. Dr. Funda Sivrikaya Şerifoğlu, Rector of Duzce University, leading to the women organizing themselves at short notice.
Last evening we met with Sein Chew, IWF President, CEO of Unity Asset Management, and one of China’s most influential women, as well as IWF board members from various countries across the world. This meeting took place in Zarif Mustafa Paşa Mansion, which resembles a museum and is owned by Demet Sabancı Çetindoğan, owner of Demsa Group, who is admitted as an Honorary Member in the Forum.
Established in 1982, IWF has raised awareness to enable women to achieve leadership positions, not only in business life but also every field, including education and politics. President Chew used an inspired expression when she highlighted that their purpose is to contribute to world peace by making women “climb to the top rung” of the leadership ladder.
During the event, in which Turkish hospitability was demonstrated with the utmost attention to detail, as with every event hosted by Demet Sabancı, Chew said that they strive to encourage women to show the world how a successful leader should be. IWF’s membership includes many famous names, from Hillary Clinton, to Jordanian Women’s Minister, Reem Abu Hassan, from CEO of Campbell Soup, Denise Morrison, to CEO of HSBC India, Naina Lal Kidwai.
She operates a Tanzanian mine!
Let’s talk about Zehra Taşkesenlioğlu, who is one of founders of IWF Turkey. The most interesting part of this invitation, for me, is the chance to meet a woman who has such an active and bold profile that she has been able to be closely involved in politics, starting with Refah Party and becoming Istanbul Provisional Board Member for Turkey’s ruling AK Party, while at the same time operating a mining pit in Tanzania in her business life.
In fact, all founders of IWF Turkey are very interesting and successful names. When I sat down next to Taşkesenlioğlu, I found the opportunity to listen to her interesting story.
Taşkesenlioğlu comes from a bureaucratic family. Her brother, Ali Fuat Taşkesenlioğlu, is newly appointed General Manager of Halkbank. She says in the family there is no other person who is an entrepreneur like her.
Such was the situation that when she wanted to extract gypsum in Tanzania after completing her university education and doctorate in the USA, she concealed her plan from her family. She says, “I rented the pit. The loan was enough to do so. I provide the materials extracted to the cement factory in Tanzania.” When I asked whether mining was difficult for a woman, she replied that she wants to invest in Uganda.
Taşkesenlioğlu juggles embarking on new enterprises for mining copper in Uganda and Tanzania, with dealing with other businesses such as credit financing. But her eyes are on politics. She has just applied to be nominated as a candidate for Istanbul.
However, of course, if AK Party places women candidates in key constituencies, then Taşkesenlioğlu has a chance in politics, just as all woman candidates.