"You won't find this many women in a room when you're working," Sarah Golden told the crowd of female engineering students. "It's just not going to happen."
Golden, keynote speaker for the fifth annual Women Excelling in Engineering (WE2) event, said people often ask her how she managed being the only woman at the table, in the room or on a team.
"You can do anything you want to do," she told the group of nearly 50 women. "Just set your mind to it and you can accomplish it.
"And if no one's told you that, I'm going to tell it to you today. You can do it."
Golden, a 1994 Old Dominion University computer engineering graduate, is principal owner, president and chief administrative officer of The GBS Group, an engineering firm with more than 140 employees with offices in Virginia Beach, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and San Diego.
The company provides engineering services to the U.S. Navy, Military Sealift Command, NOAA and the U.S. Coast Guard, in addition to commercial maritime, rail and transport industries.
The Batten College of Engineering and Technology hosted WE2 with sponsorship from The GBS Group and supporting student organizations, the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) and Phi Sigma Rho.
Designed for current and admitted female engineering students, WE2 offers an opportunity for students to network with successful female ODU alums and acquire advice in their academic journey.
After Golden's presentation, participants attended one of two concurrent panel discussions.
In one panel, "Managing your Undergraduate Journey," engineering students discussed networking, leadership opportunities and how long one should take to finish college.
"Five years or four years, you are still going to graduate," panelist Zaria Booth said. "Don't stress yourself out trying to finish in four years. Take the number of credits that are comfortable for you."
The second panel, "Pathways after Graduation," provided advice from an industry and graduate student perspective. Panelists included professional female engineers and a doctoral student.
Facilitator Mujde Erten-Unal, associate professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, asked the panel, "What is the single most important piece of advice you could offer?"
"Know your worth and be confident in the value you bring to the company," said Amanda Caruso, an aircraft systems engineer at Garmin Ltd.
The event concluded with an interpersonal communication workshop facilitated by Pilar Pazos, associate professor in the Department of Engineering Management and Systems Engineering, and Karina Arcaute, senior lecturer and director of First-Year Engineering Programs.
A thank-you note after the event summed up the general feeling.
"The keynote speaker was very inspiring, and hearing from the panelists was an excellent opportunity to attain some advice from upperclassmen," attendee Karissa Crawford said. "I am very thankful to attend a university that supports students and offers opportunities for women in STEM to excel!