Özlem Denizmen, head of social investments for Doğuş Group — one of Turkey’s largest conglomerates — continues Chautauqua Institution’s weeklong exploration of “Turkey: Model for the Middle East?” with today’s 10:45 a.m. morning lecture in the Amphitheater. Denizmen’s talk will focus on her work promoting financial literacy and security among women in Turkey.
Denizmen was born in Turkey, educated in the United States and returned to Turkey to later become a leading entrepreneur and role model for women.
She came to the U.S. at the age of 19 to work as an au pair.
“My father ran into a friend of his on the street who was going to the U.S. and had a daughter 7 years old,” she said. The friend and his wife needed someone to care for their child, and Denizmen’s father thought it would be a good opportunity for her.
She took care of the child during the day and took night classes to learn English. After learning the language, she was eventually able to take classes at a community college, going on to earn a bachelor’s degree in industrial management from Cornell University and an MBA from the MIT Sloan School of Management.
“The U.S. has been very important in my life,” Denizmen said. “I am grateful for what I learned. Here I am, 20 years later, using all that knowledge.”
In 1994, Denizmen began a career as a financial analyst in investment banking at Merrill Lynch, eventually moving to Garanti Bank in Turkey. Since 2000, she has held various positions within the Doğuş Group.
She has participated in leadership programs at Stanford University, the GE Management Development Institute – Crotonville and Harvard Business School. She also participated in the Global Leadership and Public Policy for the 21st Century program at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University earlier in 2013.
Denizmen has been honored as a White House Delegate at the 2010 Presidential Summit on Entrepreneurship, and she was designated as a Young Society Leader by the American Turkish Society in 2011.
In 2010 Denizmen launched Para Durumu, a financial literacy initiative that reaches out to the public through many platforms. Specifically, the movement aims to educate women about their personal finances.
“I really believe in people getting financial peace and solving their financial issues,” she said.
She is a member of the International Council on Women’s Business Leadership and the founding chair of the Financial Literacy and Inclusion Association. As a member of the steering committee for the Equality at Work Platform, she works to reduce the gender gap in the workplace and to increase the employment of women in Turkey.
This is Denizmen’s first visit to Chautauqua Institution.
“I am honored to be a part of this,” she said. “There is so much we can learn by communication. It is key to everything.”