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Inspiring the next generation of female engineers TR

Inspiring the next generation of female engineers TR

Ebru Özdemir, Chairwoman at Turkey’s Limak Investments and newly named Member of the Atlantic Council’s International Advisory Board (IAB), is committed to inspiring more girls to pursue engineering career in Turkey. Raised in a family of engineers Limak’s Özdemir tries to reflect her passion for engineering to Turkey’s young generations.

Limak Group, one of region’s largest business groups from Turkey is mainly specialized in construction, infrastructure, PPPs and energy sectors; while investing and managing airports and ports, hotels and cement production. Operating in over 17 countries with more than 65,000 employees, the Group has taken part in Turkey’s current mega-projects that include İstanbul Grand Airport to be world’s largest airport to support up 200 million passengers; and 1915 Çanakkale Bridge to be world’s longest span suspension bridge.

“While labor participation by women is an important driving force for economic growth and sustainable development, engineering departments in Turkey have the lowest percentage of women participation while at the professional level women are underrepresented”

Since 1997, Ebru Özdemir, newly named Member of the Atlantic Council’s International Advisory Board, is in the wheel of Limak Investments, being the investment arm of the Group, whose portfolio includes airports, ports, energy generation, distribution and trading assets. Completing her BS in civil engineering from Turkey’s Boğaziçi University and her MBA on international business and finance from Fordham University, Özdemir has been working for Limak’s global business, headquartered in Ankara. For the past over 10 years, she has conducted projects nationwide and internationally, from airports in Kuwait, Kosovo, Russia and Senegal to roads, ports, dams, natural gas and hydroelectric power plants.

Despite her busy schedule, Limak’s Özdemir is able to manage time and efforts and commits herself to pursue a number of key priorities, all of which are underpinned to foster a culture of gender equality in Turkey by breaking down gender stereotypes, advancing understanding, tolerance and solidarity. She is the Founder and currently Chair of Limak Foundation, a private foundation established in 2016 in order to professionally manage social investments of the Group. The Group has choosen strong and long-term advocacy of the advancement of women in engineering career as the initial area of investment, an issue of most importance in Turkey as well as globally.

“Women are a minority in the field of engineering globally at both academic and professional levels more so than in other professions” says Limak’s Özdemir, stressing that engineering is still considered as a profession for men. “In Turkey the pattern of engineering as a male dominated field repeats” says Özdemir, “while labor participation by women is an important driving force for economic growth and sustainable development, engineering departments in Turkey have the lowest percentage of women participation while at the professional level women are underrepresented” she continues. “Engineering isn’t a man’s world anymore… in that perspective, we at Limak Foundation do target the disproportional representation of women at both academic and professional levels in Turkey” she concludes.

Limak Foundation’s flagship Program Engineer Girls of Turkey (TMK in Turkish acronym) launched in 2015, has succesfully managed to make a holistic approach to gender equality and women empowerment in Turkey. The Program’s collaborative approach with and between public authorities, international institutions and private sector; comprehensive practice through its secondary and undergraduate lines targeting whole range of actors varying from students to families, from instructors to employers; and innovative methods and practices through encouraging more girls to engineering track by supporting and mentoring them has been key elements of the Program.

“At TMK, we were moved from the assumption that engineering is not something that only happens in universities, but rather across the lifespan and in multiple settings”

“While designing the Program, we were moved from the assumption that engineering is not something that only happens in universities, but rather across the lifespan and in multiple settings” tells Limak’s Özdemir and says the Program’s scope is well-expanded by adressing different age groups: “At TMK, we target children aged 3 to 6 through Junior Engineers, high school and university students through Engineer Girls of Turkey tracks”. The Program also supports post-graduate students adds Özdemir: “Limak sponsors The MISTI Boğaziçi Core Fund, the flagship of MIT’s international academic cooperation program, aiming to encourage joint research projects between MIT and Boğaziçi University faculty members and students”.

As of May 2018, Limak Foundation’ efforts in the field has reached at substantial numbers with over 100 university students from 36 different state universities in Turkey taking part at the Project. A large pool of mentors has been formed in the last 3 years consisting of 180 professionals, all women. Additionaly over 20.000 high school students, educators, parents; and over 5.000 children (aged 3 to 6) and their parents were trained at Limak Foundation’s related programs.

“You can’t pursue a career when you don’t know what that career is all about or what you actually do. Therefore embedding girls in Limak Group companies or companies from the sector for internships or employment has been the key to success of the Program” says Ebru Özdemir stressing the importance of exposure of students into professional world while studying. As important as exposure Özdemir also values ‘sisterhood’ being a major element of the Project: “to have a community of women, a sisterhood of young women and girls to talk to, to learn with, to learn from is very important”. Last but not the least Limak’s Özdemir mentions role modeling as an essential part of the Project: “Our students meet up with their mentors and role models frequently so they can desire to be like them. ‘You can’t be what you can’t see’. It is as simple as that. If we don’t show what’s possible, we’re never going to change things. They have to see women who look like them; who had gone through the same path”.

“To have a community of women, a sisterhood of young women and girls to talk to, to learn with, to learn from is very important.”

While Limak Group continues to grow nationwide and internationally with more mega-projects inside and outside of Turkey, Limak Foundation decided to launch a parent program in Kuwait, where Limak Group has been entitled to construct Kuwait’s new iconic gateaway, Kuwait International Airport New Passenger Terminal. “Investment is not only monetary” says Özdemir, “our commitment to Kuwait is not only limited to our construction work, but much deeper. We are educating and preparing the youth of Kuwait to directly contribute to their country’s future” she continues.

Kuwait’s Engineer Girls Program launched in October 2017 aims to increase the local professional capacity of Kuwait through funneling more Kuwaiti citizens, especially women to thrive in the private sector of the country. The first cohort of graduates, 30 female engineers, has graduated from the Program on March 2018.

For more information: www.turkiyeninmuhendiskizlari.com

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