Organizers recruiting mentors, mentees for 2022-23 academic year
A mentorship program in the College of Engineering is bringing together students of color who identify as female with Cal Poly alumni working in the industry to build a more diverse workforce.
Both mentors and mentees are being recruited for the program that asks participants to meet for 30 minutes once a month — typically over the phone or virtually via video — over the course of one academic year.
In their second year, organizers aim to build on the 75 matches made in the program’s inaugural year, according to Samantha Galicinao, who graduated from Cal Poly in 2019 with a degree in biomedical engineering and now chairs the Women of Color in Engineering Mentorship Program.
“Our hope is to expose students to the possibilities in the industry as women of color and spark conversations about navigating as women of color in this field,” said Galicinao, adding topics could include transitioning into college life, applying for internships and starting postcollege life. “We want to give students a safe space to have those conversations.”
Studies from the Society of Women Engineers found one of the greatest challenges for women of color in engineering is the lack of role models for minority female engineers who are a fraction of the current workforce. According to the National Science Board, women make up 28% of the engineering and science workforce, with only 5% being women of color.
Galicinao believes that meaningful mentorships are a significant way to encourage more women of color to pursue and sustain careers in STEM.
“There is a difference between graduating and staying in the field,” she said. “We want to let people know they aren’t alone and do have support.”
In surveying the first group of WoCEMP participants, both mentors and mentees said the relationships they formed were impactful.
“Connecting with a mentor with similar interests in my major has motivated me more to not be afraid to explore what opportunities I can have,” said Eva, a mentee who took part in the survey.
Maliha, another mentee, said her mentor offered help that ranged from everyday advice to career counseling. She added, “I really like having someone just be there for tough times we go through to become successful engineers.”
Being a mentor allowed Jessica to give both personal and professional advice to students that went through a similar journey to her own, she wrote in her survey. “Through mentorship, the students have looked within themselves needed to make career/major changes.”
Galicinao said filling a niche was the impetus to kick-start the mentorship program at Cal Poly.
“We want to provide a space where gender and cultural background intersect because it is a unique experience being a woman of color and an engineer,” she said.
Prior to matching new pairs, WoCEMP will host a virtual meet-and-greet where potential mentors and mentees can get to know each other in a breakout session. The students then can request specific mentors, although a committee will make the final decision.
Galicinao aims to better equip this year’s mentors by supplying more material and tools to stimulate conversations, which are the cornerstone of the program.