Here at Ottoman Hands, we happen to be an all-women team from all around the world, headed by the brand's founder Deniz Gurdal.
This year we're taking inspiration from the International Women's Day campaign theme: #BreakTheBias and we are reflecting on issues that have personally affected us due to our gender.
Here's our stories, we hope to inspire you too to break the bias on International Women's Day and beyond.
"I have faced many obstacles and barriers in my life, like every woman. Especially as a woman who was born and raised in Turkey, these obstacles have been much more difficult to overcome than women who grew up in Europe. I was lucky enough to have a family who value women. However, the pressures of society and the environment I grew up in, showed me the barriers more prominently and I had to be strong to overcome these challenges over the years.
Unfortunately, the norm in society is to disregard the value of women and telling us to “know our place”, “don’t get involved in a male job as a girl”, “whatever man says has to be done”. It is very sad to see this still exists in a “modern world” and it needs courage to break this bias as a woman.
To be able to outcome this, I always have valued myself as a woman and never thought that I am not capable enough to do anything that "men can do". This brought me to a place where I am now.
As a young woman who didn’t have enough financial resources and coming from a different background, I still believed in myself and followed my dreams to establish my brand at the age of 29. I am now lucky to work with a wonderful team of women from different backgrounds.
I have a daughter called Melodi and I have been teaching her that she can also do what she believes in. She plays with "boy’s" toys as well as baby dolls, as her place will not only be at home and she should have the courage to say what she believes in.
The world is so big that she should explore and follow her dreams too. The change starts from us individuals, and I believe that together we can make a difference towards a more gender equal world."
- Deniz, Founder & Creative Director
"Having been in a 15-year relationship and being married five of those years, I have had mounting pressure on having children and compromising my lifestyle. Coming from a Turkish Cypriot background, I have faced some traditional views from a cultural perspective, coming to terms with countless questions such as: 'So when are you planning a family?’, ‘Any children yet?’, ‘Ain’t it time to slow down and become a mum?’.
I’ve been told that once I’m married, I shouldn’t be going away on holidays with my girlfriends or that I'm being selfish for still living my life with my husband and not taking that further step to try for a baby.
Men don’t get asked these questions or get pressured as much as us women do. At times, I nearly succumbed to the pressure and thought that maybe I am being selfish and should now start a new chapter and become a mother.
Even though I love the idea of becoming a mum, it is a big and serious commitment and should not be taken lightly. It’s something that I am leaving it to fate and will embrace whatever comes my way and I know that even if I do become a mother, I will not compromise my identity for anyone else’s expectations.
I have learned to love and accept who I am and not succumb to the stereotypical opinions or judgements that sometimes society or family members project upon us. Whether being married, a mother or being single, we must listen to our own voice and do what makes us happy, there is no right or wrong. Life is short, let's live it the way we want to, not what others expect."
- Ayshe, Senior PR & Marketing Executive
"Being a woman, has always been associated with being beautiful, nice and pleasant. So much pressure in these 3 simple words.
I started to have grey hair when I was 16 years old. I always received criticism from my family for the way that I wanted to be and the fact that I accepted myself as it was.
Unfortunately, our society still seems to have an issue with being natural and the aging process of the female human being. I keep thinking why it has never been like this for men, grey hair for men can mean to be sexy, knowledgeable and wise.
I decided to love and live my life with my grey hair, accepting its messy beauty as a part of me. Being a woman is not easy, especially when you decide to be yourself inside and outside. I would like to be a positive example for all the women that may find it hard to accept themselves."
- Giusi, Customer Service Executive
"Having given birth to my daughter Marlowe 18 months ago, the safety, opportunities and rights of women have become highlighted to me. One issue that has been coming up constantly since I had my daughter, is the inequality regarding maternity leave.
I was lucky to be able to stay at home for one year but so many other mums I’ve been talking to have had to go back to work very soon after giving birth. Going back to work after having a baby can be stressful enough as it is, but if you are forced to do this when you aren’t ready physically or emotionally, it is only adding to your worries.
For mums who could stay at home for the majority of that first crucial year, another issue was apparent. Paternity leave is only two weeks in the UK, this is an extremely short period of time for fathers to bond with their new baby and to share the new workload that comes with a new arrival.
Due to the gender inequality in pay, that we are still unfortunately experiencing, it is women who are obliged to stay at home with the children and the dads who go to work. This feels like an old-fashioned way of raising children and hopefully we can see the pay gap close so both partners will be able to share this special time in the future."
- Hanna, Wholesale Account Manager
"Working in ecommerce and digital marketing, there have been instances in my career that I have felt that my opinion was not valued equally to a man's.
Even though I have a naturally dynamic personality, I still struggled to make my voice heard in the workplace, sometimes even on matters where I had the better experience or technical knowledge. It was frustrating to feel undervalued, underpaid and still expected to perform better than my male colleagues, in order to prove my professional worth.
I am lucky to be working with an all-women team, where we work together as a team in the truest sense of the word and our voices are heard equally on all aspects of the brand. At Ottoman Hands, we all get to decide together on each jewellery piece that goes into production, working in a democratic way that I have never experienced before."
- Katia, Head of Ecommerce
"Gender bias in medicine and medical research is still putting women’s health at risk. Women have been woefully neglected in studies on pain. Most of our understanding of ailments comes from the perspective of men; it is overwhelmingly based on studies of men, carried out by men.
Less than 2.5% of publicly funded research is dedicated solely to reproductive health, despite the fact that one in three women in the UK will suffer from a reproductive or gynaecological health problem. There is five times more research into erectile dysfunction, which affects 19% of men, than into premenstrual syndrome, which affects 90% of women.
I have been to A&E four times in the last year, due to my endometriosis pain, and I felt I was never taken seriously, I was sent home without a scan and just a handful of painkillers. It took me five years for a proper diagnosis.
Until more research is done into women’s health, women will continue to be ignored when they speak to medical professionals about their symptoms.
- Meghan, Wholesale Account Manager
To celebrate International Women's Day we have partnered with Young Women's Trust via Work for Good and we will be donating 15% of every online order between 6th - 13th of March to support young women aged 18 to 30, who are living on low or no pay and want to build a better future.
#breakthebias #trustinwomen #strongerwomenstrongernations