Women helping women, supporting women, and empowering women to be a force. Those were the principles guiding Ohlone College’s 4th Annual Women in Engineering, Computer Science, and Biotechnology Speed Mentoring dinner held on March 8th, International Women’s Day.

“It helps to see and know the women who have gone before you, who have paved the way, who have opened up doors, and that is really empowering, to not only see them but to know them,” said communication studies professor Larissa Favela, the evening’s MC.

The event, hosted and led by engineering professor Rose-Margaret Ekeng-Itua, Ph.D., connects female students across the Bay Area with local female professionals in various science and engineering related industries. Over 200 people attended this year including female students representing 13 colleges, one university, and two high schools from across the Bay Area.

“It’s a chance for students to find mentors. Giving them direct access to professional women who have already ‘made it’ in engineering and tech is a huge draw for students,” says Dr. Itua. “When you can sit across someone working at your dream job and you can ask them about their experiences and their path to success, it really makes the dream seem much more accessible—it becomes a reality.”

Industry professionals from Tesla, Lam, Apple, Amazon, Genentech, and from the City of Fremont, were among the 30 companies that attended the event. Professionals sat among students and shared their best career advice and lessons learned from their years of industry experience.

“Fremont has a very high concentration of companies doing innovative things in industry sectors such as Advanced Manufacturing, Cleantech, and Biotech,” says Tina Kapoor, Economic Development Manager for the City of Fremont. “These companies choose Fremont as their location because they are able to tap in to the rich talent that’s here. Ohlone College is a strong partner in preparing the future talent pipeline of engineers.”

Kapoor attended the event with Fremont Mayor Lily Mei who shared words of wisdom as she spoke with students attendees.

“When I was just 16 years old, I landed a job at Siemens where my manager, who was also a woman, took me under her wing and taught me how to be better organized and poised. I also learned how to negotiate, how to shake someone’s hand, and how to ask for what I wanted,” says Mayor Mei. “My manager was a mentor to me and was so critical. And that’s what I hope to see, a pipeline of future women who help one another.”

Ohlone’s Engineering Department focuses on providing lower-division engineering courses and pre-engineering programs that prepare students for success upon transfer to a four-year institution for a bachelor of science degree. Students intern at local engineering and manufacturing companies while managing their studies, gaining first-hand experience, and learning in the field.

“Women in engineering must continue to stand strong, believe in ourselves and know that we belong,” says Dr. Itua.

Ohlone College is one of the first community colleges to be a member of the Society of Women Engineers—an organization with a mission to empower women to achieve full potential in careers as engineers and leaders, expand the image of the engineering and technology professions as a positive force in improving the quality of life, and demonstrate the value of diversity and inclusion.