Profiles of Women Working In STEM

Mae Nakatani Nishioka

Civil Engineer

As the first woman to graduate with an engineering degree from the University of Hawai‘i, in 1950, Mae Nakatani Nishioka, P.E., paved a path for others to follow, both literally and figuratively. Four years after she earned her degree, Nishioka made history again as Hawaii’s first female licensed professional engineer.

She started her career in the Territory of Hawaii’s Highway Planning Office, where she would later work on the H-1 Freeway, the state’s first major freeway. Later, while working at the University of Hawai‘i, Nishioka coordinated a construction program to develop the state university system, with campuses at UH-Manoa, Hilo, West Oahu, and certain community colleges.

Nishioka mentored female engineering students and professionals. She joined Society of Women Engineers (SWE) in 1958 as a member at large, and served as Hawaii’s delegate to the First International Conference of Women Engineers and Scientists (ICWES). She remained an active SWE member for nearly 60 years. In 2011, Nishioka was one of the original signers of the charter that created the SWE Hawaiian Islands Section.

She died just two days before she was to have been conferred the 2017 Lifetime Achievement Award by the Hawaii Council of Engineering Societies. Her daughter, Susan, accepted the award on her behalf. The SWE Hawaiian Islands Section is establishing a scholarship to preserve Nishioka’s legacy.

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