“To be a Fly Pinay is to fly. Is to rise. Is to uprise.”
– Dr. Robyn Rodriguez, Closing Keynote, 2017 Fly Pinays Leadership Summit
Background Story: Fly Pinays
L.E.A.D Filipino curated and created its Fly Pinays Leadership Summit and Mentorship Program after a series of interviews and conversations with local Pinay college students, from San Jose State, De Anza College, and Santa Clara University. We asked young Pinays (ages 18-26) what social and public issues concerned them. We asked what they felt faced the Filipin@ American community today. As young women, we asked about their views on society, politics and culture, and furthermore, asked what type of infrastructure L.E.A.D could offer, by way of strengthening their professional competitiveness while also reinforcing the importance of a social [justice] lens. These interviews took place in the fall of 2016 and from these responses, we got straight to work.
Last November, a group of L.E.A.D volunteers and organizers met to assess the results from our interviews – what did these responses mean? What could we suss out from the trends we saw? How might we develop a program (and future curriculum) that was both responsive and reflective to the needs of young Pinays in our community? That evening, we collectively defined how we envisioned a Fly Pinays Leadership Summit; an event organized and held in the South Bay, hoping to attract Pinay professionals to serve as Mentors, and furthermore, Pinay students from across the San Jose/Silicon Valley Area, to participate as Mentees. Our Organizing Team would lead outreach through social media, direct emailing, and by our personal networks to spread the word about our call for: “All Fly Pinays interested in Mentoring/Receiving A Professional Mentor”. We would spread the word for 2 months and with the sign ups collected, would thoughtfully pair professionals and students, hence, Fly Pinay Mentors and Mentees.
Our Fly Pinays Leadership Summit would intentionally take place in March.
The event would be themed around emboldening the pride and empowering the confidence of young Filipinas, that if they hadn’t already – could realize and actualize their potential. The Leadership Summit would take place during Women’s History Month and the girls would attend with a Fly Pinay Mentor. The Mentors and Mentees would experience the Leadership Summit’s workshops, inspirational speakers, and activities. The Leadership Summit would initiate the beginnings (of what we hope) of lifelong friendships bound by shared culture, vulnerable in experiences, and celebratory in Filipina pride.
The problem we sought/seek to address? The underrepresentation of Filipinas in executive, chief and senior leadership positions across all sectors. Our organizatinon’s action plan? A group of concerned volunteers and organizers vowing to create a pipeline pledged to Filipina success, cultural and personal pride, and visibility. Our collective response? Organizing a female empowerment program, dedicated to Pinays rising – and soaring – in their careers today.
Our original goal was to have at least 25 Mentors and 50 Mentees registered and paired to participate in our March Leadership Summit.
Our actual number(s)? 38 Mentors and 72 Mentees, with students traveling from every college and university stretching as far South as Santa Cruz to as North as Sacramento – and everything in-between. We gathered Mentors from tech companies, public entities and nonprofit agencies, such as Google, Facebook, Genentech, SamTRANS, the City of San Jose, and Santa Clara County Public Health Department (to name only a few).
In other words: we KILLED it. We couldn’t believe how many sign ups we received and we were thrilled by the positive response to Fly Pinays!
We gradually saw how the community coalesced around the issue of Pinay empowerment and visibility, and the support from everyone involved, was both humbling and gratifying. The reception and anticipation from the public fueled and excited our work.
In early February, our Fly Pinays Mentors and Mentees would be introduced through email and would have an opportunity to meet at our Mentor and Mentee Mixer at Facebook’s HQ (held 02.17.17), and if not there, would have ~3 weeks to connect in-person, ahead of the Leadership Summit. Many Mentors and Mentees would meet for lunch, coffee and a few Mentees even received tours of their Mentor’s workplace campuses!
After 5 months of planning, our inaugural Fly Pinays Leadership Summit would be the culmination of our Organizing Team’s dedication, planning and vision. On Saturday, March 11th, we would host 100+ Fly Pinay Mentors and Mentees at a single-day conference, presenting cultural workshops, inspirational speakers and activities, bonding our Mentors and Mentees, and hopefully laying the foundation for long-lasting friendships.
The beginnings of our Fly Pinays work represents the faith that our community holds in the value and importance of creating pipelines for female success. We can’t wait to continue building and developing this exciting work with all of you!