News Article

SJSU Academic Spotlight March 2018 Newsletter

Women in Engineering Conference Promotes Equity

Photo: David Schmitz
Representatives from high-tech companies and other industry professionals met with women engineering students during the 2018 Silicon Valley Women in Engineering Conference March 17.


By David Goll

For the fourth consecutive year, hundreds of women -- students, university faculty and industry professionals -- gathered in the heart of Silicon Valley on a chilly late-winter day to raise the profile of women in engineering and technology.

The 2018 Silicon Valley Women In Engineering conference drew a sold-out crowd of 450 community college and university students from throughout California to San Jose State University (SJSU) on March 17. They listened to inspirational speeches from trailblazing women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) occupations, presentations of industry professionals -- gathered at the heart of Silicon Valley on a chilly late-winter day to raise the profile of women in engineering and technology.productsof services being created at their companies, and participated in panel discussions featuring life and career stories and advice from those who have already ascended to technical and senior leadership positions.

"We need you to stick with it," Maggie Johnson, vice president of Education and University Programs at Google Inc., told the audience during the morning keynote address, encouraging women to stay in STEM fields. "We cannot make products for everyone or overcome bias without a balanced workplace. The future is female. Lead like a girl."

Even in 2018 -- more than 50 years after the feminist movement began changing American society during the 1960s -- there’s still a long way to go. Despite more than 44 percent of the nation's full-time workforce being female in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, STEM industries have smaller percentages of women – in some cases, dramatic imbalances. Though 42 percent of full-time workers in life, physical and social science jobs are occupied by women, only 25 percent of computer and mathematical positions and 14 percent of jobs in engineering and architecture are filled by women.

During the conference, women who have already cracked the glass ceiling in these male-dominated fields urged their younger counterparts to continue to pursue STEM studies in school and jobs after graduation.

"When you enter a room, know that you earned your right to be there," said Lakecia Gunter, chief of staff and technical assistant to the CEO at Intel Corp. "Stand in your power. Take a seat at the table, know what you can bring and what you want, and use your voice."

Young women who will enter that workforce either later this year or in the near future were treated to a glimpse into what to expect today and tomorrow in the tech sector. Antonella Corno, an industry veteran and senior manager of Product Strategy at Cisco Systems Inc., described how the job of her brother, a doctor, has shifted due to technology. Instead of using his hands, he does surgery today by manipulating surgical instruments through computers.

"Because of rapidly changing technology, we regularly have talent gaps," Corno said, describing how education must catch up with the dizzying rate of technological innovations.

The new economy is all about data analysis, she said. The IoT (Internet of Things) trend is creating a network of physical devices, vehicles and home appliances embedded with electronics, software and sensors. There will be 30 billion such connected devices by 2020, up from 12 billion in 2015. Corno said 220,000 new control engineers will be needed by 2025.

Kaijen Hsiao, the chief technology officer for Mayfield Robotics, both charmed and intrigued her audience of prospective employees, introducing them to Kuri, a 20-inch tall, 14-pound home robot that can smile, blink and beam blue and pale yellow light from her "heart." She also records video, plays music and rolls around the house to inform absentee owners what's going on at home througha camera behind her eyes. Kuri was designed by Doug Dooley, a former animation specialist at Pixar Animation Studios.

"This is the robot to fulfill people's home robot dreams," Hsiao said. "She might not exactly be Rosie, the robot maid from 'The Jetsons,' but she’s designed to be humble, curious and courteous."

Career panel discussions featured engineers and top executives from a wide range of Silicon Valley companies, including Intel, Google, HP, LinkedIn Corp., NASA Ames Research Center, KLA-Tencor Corp. and Applied Materials Inc. Many of the same companies, along with SJSU and the City of San Jose, had informational booths and product demonstrations at the Innovation Showcase display.

SJSU students Shivani Parmer, a second-year student in biomedical engineering; Lalitha Donga, a second-year student in software engineering; and Cindy Carrillo, a first-year software engineering major, were impressed with the conference.

"It's powerful to have all of these women from the industry come together," Carrillo said. "It's inspiring to see such support for women in the workplace."

Both Donga and Parmer said they feel better about their academic and career paths.

"There was awesome energy here today," Parmer said. "It's empowering and makes me feel confident of my career choice."


Mark and Carolyn Guidry
Women in Engineering Program Fund