Moving Forward Hand in Hand, Not Competing in a Race
The Global Women Media news agency keeps publishing a series of interviews with the Peace 50 members, women leaders from different countries. This time, Gülden Türktan, the Founding Chair of the W20, summed up the results of the outgoing year 2021. She told us about her main professional and social projects and shared her plans and dreams that will certainly come true thanks to the collaboration and the sincere friendship of people from different regions.
Founding Chair of the W20, Chairperson of the Board of IWF Turkey, former President of the Women Entrepreneurs Association of Turkey (KAGIDER)
Gülden Türktan is a person who inspires people around her with her energy, purposefulness, and endless desire to make the world a better place. Projects of the highest level are being implemented under her leadership. Each of them has a serious social significance.
Gülden Türktan believes that preserving peace is the responsibility of everyone on Earth. Tomorrow’s life depends on what people devote their energy and attention to today. That’s why, on New Year's Eve, the founder of the W20 reminded us about the importance and value of international collaboration, exchange of experience, and implementing social projects.
– What professional and social projects are the most important ones for you today? What is the focus of your efforts and attention?
– I am right now the President of the Board of IWF International Women’s Forum - Turkey. This is a position that comes with an election. IWF’s members are about 7000 well-established women from all over the world who are actively working not only on their own leadership but also on supporting other women and especially young women in becoming leaders of the future.
Of course, I continue to pay much attention to the project that was created several years ago under my supervision: the Women 20 (W20), which is operating within the Group of Twenty (G20). This year, the W20 had its traditional handover of the presidency and renewal of administration. That is important to make it possible for every country to represent its interests and contribute to the solution of global tasks. Every country that assumes the presidency tries its best and improves both the content and the procedure. Thanks to that, it is possible to promote and improve the status of the women’s agenda both in the world and in specific countries.
I would compare addressing global tasks to studying at a school. For a class to be considered strong, all students must go forward at a pace acceptable for the rest of their ‘classmates’.
In addition to the women’s agenda and promoting women's rights and opportunities in different countries, as an entrepreneur and social activist, I am also very concerned about issues related to the economy, green growth, and the harmonious development of the world in all spheres of society’s life. It is important to understand that consistency and competent distribution of efforts is important in resolving any tasks. I would very much like people of all countries to hold hands and walk together towards common goals rather than to compete in a race.
– You travel a lot and often go on business trips to different countries. In your opinion, how has the world changed over the two years of the pandemic? How have people living in different countries changed?
– Yes, my professional activities are almost always associated with visits to different countries. I travelled extensively as an executive of ABB as well as due to the other board positions that I held in Turkey, European countries, and the USA.
As the Founding Chair of the W20, I had the chance to visit many countries. For example, in 2016, I had a chance to meet my colleagues in China. We agreed on the W20 communiqué in the city of Xi’an. I was also honoured to present my speech at the B20 Summit in Hangzhou. In 2017, the W20 meeting took place in Berlin, Germany. In 2018, we were in Buenos Aires, Argentina. In 2019, I had a chance to go to Tokyo, Japan, for the first time ever in my life. In 2020, the G20 Presidency was with Saudi Arabia. That gave me the opportunity to go to Riyadh. Finally, this year, the G20 and the W20 presidencies were assumed by Italy. I also had a chance to travel to Russia, Vietnam, the USA, the UK, Holland, Spain, and other wonderful countries. We all look forward to visiting beautiful Indonesia next year.
I really enjoy interacting with people from different cultures. I am happy that my work gives me many opportunities to do so.
The COVID-19 pandemic has completely changed people’s lives in different countries. Although we were able to continue to communicate with one another thanks to digital technology, it has turned out that live interaction is essential to maintain the pace of the development of different areas. Security measures taken in the form of isolating people have brought a lot of economic hardship to the whole planet. Businesses have been hit particularly hard financially by the pandemic. However, there were also positive changes: many businesses started to develop not only offline but also online. That made people’s lives more comfortable.
Unfortunately, those businesses that didn’t manage to transform themselves quickly and adapt to the new reality were closed. That led to job losses everywhere. As an expert in the women’s agenda, I must stress the sad fact: most of the people who lost their jobs during the pandemic were women. However, for some of them, such events were an impetus for a new stage of development.
The most active and purposeful women used their isolation time to learn new online professions and made great success in doing so.
Few countries managed to recover quickly from the lockdown. Russia, in my opinion, was among the countries that could share the successful experience. I visited the Third Eurasian Women’s Forum in Saint Petersburg in autumn 2021 and was pleasantly impressed by what was happening in the city and in the country. I witnessed that life flourished in the streets: renovation works were underway, new restaurants and shops were opening. By the way, I noticed another positive trend at the Forum. Over the past three years, the number of women leaders in Russia has increased significantly.
If we look at G20 countries, we can see that Japan has closed the gap in labour market participation rates between men and women in accordance with its G20 target of 25% by 2025. Similarly, Canada has achieved the target. So, this year, both countries pleased the G20 with good news despite all the pandemic problems.
Lifestyles and habits have changed seriously because of the pandemic. People have started carrying about their health more responsibly.
I look forward to the news that COVID-19 is no longer killing people. That was a serious challenge that taught us a lot. It is important not to lose that experience in the future in order to avoid repeating mistakes.
– What is your vision of the world’s future? Will there be globalization, the elimination of borders, or, on the contrary, the delimitation and separation of individual countries?
– A harmonious balance is important in everything, including the issue of ‘erasing borders’. Of course, people need to travel, be inspired, exchange their experience, and build bridges. However, it is also important to make sure that they love and appreciate their own country and culture.
I am totally against people all together relocating from their own countries due to wars or any other such reasons. Forced relocations are not helping any of the countries. War presupposes winning at the expense of the other party. But the actual picture we see is that all parties inevitably suffer from war. That is why I find it necessary for us to find solutions that will stop conflicts, preserve peace, and let every country develop.
All countries need to prosper using the resources that they have. It is essential that the governments of the countries approach their citizens carefully and appreciate the talents of their nation.
I believe that cooperation and globalization are the keys to the future. It cannot be otherwise. Isolation is only a forced measure, which will gradually come to its end. One day we will be one united world. That will not be a matter of erasing borders and losing identity but rather of people sincerely wanting to hear and understand one another and to accept the differences between existing cultures.
There will probably remain some ‘eternally hostile’ members of humanity. However, those will be only a few who will not be able to make decisions alone due to globalization.
– All the people of the world are very different. What brings them together?
– Our differences are our strengths. We can’t be the same or have identical ideas and mustn’t try to do so. That will bring no benefit. New ideas are always born at the intersection of different opinions, worldviews, and attitudes to certain things.
For a long time, the world was patriarchal and men were responsible for decision-making. This has not brought much good to the planet. It would also be ineffective if women were solely responsible for decision-making.
What we need is cooperation: the ability to listen to and respect one another’s opinions. Business experience is the brightest example. As proved by a lot of research, companies with a ‘mixed’ team are more successful.
– You emphasized the importance for people to genuinely love their country and culture and share that love with others. What do you find most interesting about Turkey? What makes it unique and particularly interesting to people from other parts of the world?
– I guess that nature, climate, local beauties, and rich history make my country a centre of attraction. We have many amazing sights that will impress every tourist or local resident.
Also, availability of shopping and good food are the two more factors that make Turkey even more attractive for tourists. I see how people are happy with our food, service, and artisan goods. The prices tied to the local purchasing power are the ‘icing on the cake’.
I believe that Turkey is one of the most hospitable countries. The number of tourists visiting us every year proves that once again.
– What is the ‘recipe’ for effective international or intercultural collaboration? What principles should be the basis of that collaboration?
– Every national cuisine has at least one recipe for a ‘great’ soup emphasizing the flavour of the culture. However, if a traveller decides to repeat the dish in his or her own kitchen, it is likely to taste quite different. That is not because of messing up the sequence of steps in the recipe. The thing is that even the same ingredients grown or produced in different countries differ from one another. When it comes to fruit and vegetables, for example, much depends on the climate and soil, which are unique on each continent and its individual regions.
Respect is the magical element of international cooperation. I would like to appeal to people from all over the world. Respect and appreciate the uniqueness of the ‘soup’ you make in your country. Be proud and grateful that other countries are inspired by your success and try to copy and ‘localize’ what you do so well.
Be proud of what you ‘cook’ but also remember that there are good ‘soups’ in other countries too.
However, if we speak about the kind of ‘soup’ that we all need to make together, I believe that the main ingredients in it are mutual understanding and friendly ties based on kindness and trust.
The preservation of peace is a goal that can’t be achieved alone. That is why it is so important to form communities that bring together different countries and cultures and provide platforms for the interaction of people with similar values. I am glad that the Peace 50 community that I co-founded meets these requirements.
– What projects would you like to carry out in the future? What is your global mission?
– My global mission is to think and propose fresh solutions to the old problems and lobby for a better world for all of us.
Moreover, I like to write books. I would very much like to make sure that they are useful to society, that they can create positive change, help people become happy and successful, and contribute to the development of leadership skills in people.
– What inspires you?
– What inspires me is a ‘better tomorrow’ for myself, my family, my friends, my country, and for the world. Tomorrow should at least be equal or better than today or yesterday. This is what we call sustainable growth.
Sometimes we face circumstances that make us step back. For example, that happened during the pandemic period. The main thing here is not to give up and keep going, adapt to the new realities and conditions, and help those who need our support.
With globalization our motto should be “we win together” because we learn from one another and create a better future for all of us.
If G20 countries prosper, it will be easier for the world to prosper without leaving anyone behind or relocating people.
– What would you wish people of the world?
– I wish that the world becomes a peaceful place where everyone always has opportunities for economic prosperity and cultural and spiritual growth. I wish all of us a better climate, better food, and better living conditions. I believe all that awaits us, if we start taking care of our future together.
Viktoria Gusakova, Nikolay Gavrilov, Global Women Media news agency
Translated by Nikolay Gavrilov
Photos are provided by the article's heroine from her personal archive