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HER Story:The Lady with the Headscarf in Irish Business

Diversity Inclusion – Furkan Karayel – one would wonder which symbolises the other here in Dublin. From the ‘lady with the scarf’ who had questions on inclusion at a conference to the ‘Judge’ who announced that she would be biased towards ideas that stood for inclusion of the ‘diverse’ population – it is Furkan’s indomitable spirit that one can see.

Until now, in this series I have been inspired by women and then reach out to them for interviews and in the process a camaraderie is formed. With Furkan, her infectious smile and ever readiness to help- it was friendship first. While I’m proud of that – I do know that with every person she comes across she has this instant connect.

Furkan Karayel, Inclusive Leader Advisor at Diversein

To introduce Furkan – she is a ‘tech woman’ – the first of the surprises that her community had. But breaking the stereotype was just the beginning. Furkan reminisces of the interview she had in high school and when she was asked the question of what she wanted to become when she grew-up. While that is one of the most typical question one comes across growing up – ‘software engineer’ wasn’t considered a typical answer from a girl in her neighbourhood. She was laughed at!

Growing up with six siblings in Giresun, Turkey - neither did Furkan have a female role model (in technology) nor much company. She was alone in her love and aspirations in technology and was even laughed at by her society in wanting to step into it. From her college in Istanbul where she learnt software engineering to the C-Suite in Europe – she’s yet to find a lady with a headscarf.

‘It baffled me’, she said ‘when my teacher whom I believed in told me to - come back to reality – when I told her about my aspirations in technology’. However, one step at a time it was and her first baby step into becoming Ireland’s Tech Trailblazer was to say “IT is my dream and I dare to dream”.

Although she excelled in her space of tech, winning multiple awards, Furkan realised that the bias that existed during her own journey and the others she saw around her, should be done away with.

So why this fight? Why is it so important to see more women in tech? How does it matter to her? ‘Today’s world is driven by technology and if you do not have passengers with different perspectives, you may not be able to navigate it for the benefit of all. Yes, I’d like to see and have more women as colleagues, counterparts and competitors. Yes, I’d want women in head scarfs at the top game, in the c-suite acting as role models for those everywhere to perceive such roles as ‘closer reality’.

But more importantly, if a section of the society doesn’t understand the mainstream language, the society in its turn tends to not understand the section. And it is from this need to see more women and head scarfs that the idea of any type of diversity in inclusion stemmed.

“In a strange sense it is the ‘survival of the fittest’ game. If anyone and everyone gets to be in the game and thrive efficiently irrespective of their origin or history or any factor that do not directly contribute to the nature of the job– the likes of them will have more hopes and chances. ‘If I stop working despite my passion for technology, it is a loss for the field, the society and my own community.’ In order to be able to move forward as a larger community, it is essential that we foster true passion and potential and do that taking all the extra steps we may need.” Furkan stresses.

So what earned Furkan the ‘trailblazer’ fame? Here I’m not referring to one award. Counting the nominations and awards for herself and Diverse In there are a list of them.

I’m referring to the track that she has set in this country and made her name synonymous with the thought of ‘diversity in inclusion’.

Was it overnight? If you imagined years or months – here comes the surprise – It was indeed overnight. Of course the track she built brick by brick over these couple of years but the turn she took into setting up ‘Diversity in Inclusion’ was overnight.

In June 2018, Furkan sat the entire night thinking about how she should work on it and built her website. From 11 pm in the night to 8 am the next morning - she built the idea, found a domain name, created the website, created the logo and set up her social media accounts.

Today – two years later, that website and domain name has conducted over 9 events, published 120+ articles, has 20 ambassadors from 5 countries.

Furkan herself is part of the advisory board with UK based “Women in STEM”, she is the Dublin chapter lead for Sprinters (female founders organization globally). She is the Advisory Board Member of InspiringSTEM network.

‘Another very rewarding role personally is the career guidance I get to give to high school students in Turkey whenever I go home’, she says. ‘Young girls have all sorts of questions and dreams and there is a sense of responsibility, pride and gratitude to be able to tell them – Dream big and dare to dream so’.

We both smile knowingly as she says this. We have all been there – that stage of apprehension, that stage of being lost or feeling alone in a crowd because you dressed different, you prayed different or you behaved different. We have all been there wondering if you should fit in or stand out. If you would be accepted if you fitted in but loose your essence or if you would be left alone if you stood out.

It is few who take the ropes and fight against odds to build the ship and take in one and all in the journey to the future. In that, Furkan Karayel, is a true trail blazer.

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Indira Priyadarshini is a Marketing Consultant. She has graduated from Trinity College with Distinction in Digital Humanities and Culture. She is passionate about social media and content and researches on the trends in these fields. Shero Tales is her project to promote the stories of ‘industrious’ women to inspire young women. Trees – standing tall in the woods or beaten down and printed upon as books – are her constant companions.


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