Women in Engineering Conference Focuses on ‘Leaders for Tomorrow’

by | Mar 8, 2022 | Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Graphic: SJSU College of Engineering

On March 19, about 550 women engineering students will congregate virtually for the eighth annual Silicon Valley Women in Engineering conference, hosted by San José State University’s Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering

Attendees will include students from SJSU and other higher education institutions who want to learn about current trends and innovations in the field, connect with potential mentors and role models, and participate in Silicon Valley’s community of women engineers.

The theme of this year’s conference is “Engineering Leaders for Tomorrow” — the word “engineering” serving as either a verb or an adjective, noted Nicole Okamoto, conference chair and associate dean of undergraduate studies and student success with the College of Engineering.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, only 15% of all engineers in 2019 were women, she continued.

“We want to give [women] students who attend a vision for what they can strive to be. While they may see mostly young men in their classes, in this conference they can be inspired by people who are like them and have been successful in a variety of engineering fields.”

The keynote speakers are three women in leadership engineering roles in Silicon Valley, including:

  • Inez Fung, professor of atmospheric science at the University of California, Berkeley, who will give her talk “Climate Accords and Climate Pacts: Trust But Verify”;
  • Ruthie D. Lyle, principal technical patent architect for NVIDIA, who will present “The Power of Curiosity Combined with an Engineering Mindset”;
  • Patti Robb, senior vice president of software at Dexcom, who will give her talk, “Revolutionize and Improve Healthcare with Sensor Technology.”

Attendees can also choose from 12 technical talks about emerging technologies and six professional development sessions as well as five career panels. They can mingle with representatives from more than 50 Silicon Valley companies — including sponsors Google, Netgear, TSMC and several others — during the conference’s sessions and the Innovation Showcase.

To the conference attendees, Okamoto posed this question: “So many challenges face our society that we as engineers are called to address, ranging from drought in California to ethical issues surrounding social media. What role will each of you play?

“Join the conference. Listen to the speakers and ask questions. Talk with engineering students from other schools. Explore careers that perhaps you have not considered before.”

In addition to hosting an annual conference designed to advance women in engineering, the college is dedicated to enrolling more female students by hiring more female faculty. SJSU recently partnered with three other California State University campuses in an effort to hire more engineering faculty members, especially underrepresented minority women. The effort is supported by a $1.25 million National Science Foundation grant. 

More than 30% of tenure or tenure-track faculty at SJSU’s College of Engineering are women — the fourth highest among public engineering colleges in the country, according to the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE).

Learn more about the Silicon Valley Women in Engineering Conference.