Sıddıka Demir was no stranger to engineering. Her father is a retired professor of earthquake engineering, and both her late brother Asim Demir RC 82 and her sister Prof. Dr. Semahat Demir RC 84 had studied engineering, while her mother is an economist: “When I was growing up, I felt very supported by my family and teachers. I had role models and lots of encouragement.”
After getting her BS in engineering from the University of Houston and MS in engineering from Purdue University, Demir’s career took off: “I started working at an engineering company. I then switched to the biotech/pharma industry, leading international teams in different functions in the US and Switzerland.”
However, it is her work as a STEM champion for women that is her true passion and purpose: “I was introduced to the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) in my freshman year. I learned about the statistics and lack of diversity in STEM. When I conducted STEM class projects with underprivileged middle school students in Houston through my SWE outreach activities, I saw how positive role-modeling and mentoring make a difference.”
Through SWE, Demir got diversity and inclusion training and lobbied the US Congress on the importance of diversity to the innovation and competitiveness debate. She became the first (and still only) foreign SWE Board President of the then 20,000-member organization in 2010-2011, after serving as a director and president-elect for several years.
Her time at SWE held several highlights.: “I was invited to go on a nuclear submarine dive mission to reinforce the importance of diversity and inclusion in the navy. I attended White House, US Congress and National Academies events and briefings as a society president and diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) champion. We also succeeded in having Mattel manufacture Computer Engineer Barbie during my presidency year. Becoming SWE President gave me the platform to showcase the importance of diversity with my international background. One of the most precious moments was meeting with SWE students at Turkish universities and mentoring them. I learned that we give much but we gain a lot more through mentoring.”
Demir and her family recently moved to Germany, where she co-founded a company that uses AI technology to automate medical and radiological workflow. She is also a board director on a Miami and Madrid-based tech start-up which uses AI in supplier discovery. She finds that her time at SWE provided her with invaluable experience for her work and her corporate board director roles:
“During my presidency year, because of the economic downturn, we had challenging discussions to help us respond to present and potential risks. This was one of the best growth experiences I had in my career. As a start-up board director, I tap into my non-profit board experience and my breadth of work experiences. The start-up pace is fast, and it can be lonely for the start-up founder, so being a board director requires accessibility. One uses her network and connections a lot. When serving on a company board, it is important to understand what company size, type, and lifecycle are right for your experience. Focus of private vs public, legacy vs start-up can be very different. I truly enjoy my corporate board director role, the impact it makes, and that it allows me to ask questions about my passion areas of DE&I and ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance).”
Published February 2022