The scarcity of women in the computer science and engineering sector is oft-mentioned, but how can it be successfully addressed? Facebook, LinkedIn, the Anita Borg Institute and Lean In are about to take their best shot.
The four organizations announced the launch of the Lean In CS&E Chapter, which they described as a global network of Lean In Circles focused specifically on women who are studying or interested in the computer science and engineering fields.
Those women can connect with counterparts and gain access to support, resources and a robust network.
In a release announcing the formation of the Lean In CS&E Chapter, the four organizations spearheading the initiative said women made up 35 percent of computer-science majors in 1985, but that figure has dropped to 18 percent currently, adding:
Because there are so few women in these programs, when things get tough, there is no one to turn to. The result is that women don’t end up graduating with those degrees — and those that do don’t stay in the industry for long.
Today, Facebook, LinkedIn, the Anita Borg Institute and Lean In are launching a new global chapter of Lean In Circles to support women in computer science and engineering. Learn more here: http://leanin.org/cse
Careers in computer science and engineering are great for women (and men) — the work is high-impact, flexible, well-paid and exciting. Yet female participation in these fields is plummeting; women comprised 35 percent of CS majors in 1985, but make up only 18 percent today. Women are missing out on great jobs, and the world is missing out on their great ideas.
The solution to getting more women into CS is … getting more women into CS. This is because stereotypes are self-reinforcing; computer science and engineering classes “feel male” because they are dominated by men. As one CS student told me, “There are more Davids than women in my department.”
This is where peer mentorship and Lean In Circles come in. Lean In Circles are small groups that meet regularly to support each other. Since 2013, more than 21,500 Circles have been formed in more than 97 countries and on more than 330 college campuses. We hear from women on college campuses worldwide that their Circles encourage them to speak up, enroll in classes they were afraid to take and apply for jobs even if they aren’t sure they’re ready. At the University of Tennessee, a Circle of women engineers are not just supporting each other, but also raising funds to send women to technical conferences around the U.S.
Facebook and Lean In are honored to partner with LinkedIn and Jeff Weiner and Reid Garrett Hoffman, and the Anita Borg Institute and Telle Whitney, who have already done so much to help people realize their career goals, to launch CS&E Lean In Circles. We believe that we can all come together to support women in these fields — we can change the numbers, change the stereotypes and change the world. Join us! #leanin #leanincircles
Weiner said in a LinkedIn post:
One of the most challenging issues facing the technology industry today is the gender imbalance in technical roles, particularly at the leadership level.
From the classroom to the boardroom, women remain significantly underrepresented in engineering, math and the sciences, and it’s moving in the wrong direction. In 1985, women made up 35 percent of all computer-science graduates in 1985; today, they’re just 18 percent. Data from LinkedIn shows that women comprise just 30 percent of the entire workforce in the technology industry independent of function. Only 15 percent of software-engineering roles in the technology industry are held by women.
As an industry, we know we can do better in terms of diversity, inclusion and ensuring that our collective workforce more accurately represents the members and customers we serve. And this isn’t just a problem for tech companies. It’s a problem for everyone. Without balanced working groups that reflect the breadth of perspective among all people, we’re not able to develop our best ideas and advance innovation that can generate economic growth. Additionally, until we figure out how to attract and keep women in technology roles for the long term, one-half of our population will continue to miss out on some of the most financially lucrative careers in expanding industries. The number of U.S.-based coding jobs alone is set to grow 30 percent by 2020, which is twice the rate of general job growth.
For me, this isn’t just a professional matter — it’s a personal one, as well. Growing up, my dad would always tell me I could do anything I set my mind to. I tell the same thing to my two young daughters. I’d like to them to grow up in a world where those words ring as true for them as they did for me.
What we’ve learned over the past two decades is that to help women be successful and blaze a trail as a minority in certain workplace environments such as tech, they need to be supported, mentored and nurtured by peers and advocates — just as their male counterparts have been historically. This kind of culture change takes concerted effort over time.
That’s why LinkedIn is excited to partner with Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg, Lean In and the Anita Borg Institute to launch a new global chapter of Lean In Circles to support women in computer science and engineering. Our aim is to give young women a support structure to help them navigate the important turning points and decisions of their university and early professional careers.
This effort is part of a broader commitment for LinkedIn. Last year, we were one of several tech companies to increasingly focus on the persistent gender imbalance by publishing our workforce diversity numbers for the first time. We firmly believe that transparency is the first step toward a permanent solution. We’ve also invested in organizations like MentorNet, a national nonprofit that provides tech students with access to high-quality mentoring in their field.
LinkedIn is uniquely positioned to help fix the gender imbalance in the tech industry and leadership. Our professional networking platform can track trends and identify insights to determine how to invest to get more women pursuing and persevering in science and technology careers. CS&E Lean In Circles is a great start, and you can learn more here: http://leanin.org/cse
Hoffman said in a LinkedIn post:
When you’re doing something challenging and risky, there’s strength in numbers. That’s why back-country explorers use the buddy system. It’s also why successful startups are often the result of close-knit teams rather than a lone founder. And it’s why it’s critical for young people just starting out in their careers to find mentors, develop alliances and always be thinking in terms of investing and broadening their professional networks. Anyone who wants to accelerate their career should actively seek out the help and support of others.
That’s why it’s excellent that LinkedIn is partnering with Lean In, the Anita Borg Institute and Facebook to launch the Computer Science & Engineering (CS&E) Chapter — a global network of Lean In Circles that will provide women at colleges and universities a way to network with peers who are also studying, interested in or already working in the fields of computer science and engineering.
Gender inequity in the workplace isn’t just a diversity problem — it’s a productivity problem. Technology, globalization and the rise of the networked age are creating new opportunities and new challenges. But if we want to take full advantage of these opportunities and successfully address the challenges that are arising, we need to draw upon the widest possible range of perspectives and experiences — we need to leverage everyone’s talent.
In all industries, we need more women making decisions and creating the products that shape our lives. And this is particularly true in technology, where women are vastly underrepresented. Unfortunately, as statistics show, we are not doing a very good job of equipping women to pursue careers in our sector. Computerworld reports that just “7,594 of the 39,589 CS bachelor’s degrees awarded went to women” in 2011. And the proportion of women CS graduates from 2008 through 2011 is the lowest it has been since 1974.
Peer mentorship can help change these stats. As I wrote in our book, The Start-Up of You, “The people you spend time with shape who you are and who you become.”
When we function as part of a small and tightly knit group of peers, we become more confident. We learn faster. We accomplish more. In the male-dominated realms of computer science and engineering, at both the higher-ed level and in the professional world, women are often seriously marginalized. That has to change. And one way to initiate this change is to create institutions and networks that give women more opportunities to connect with each other, strategize and share resources.
Lean In Circles are already helping women enroll in classes they were previously afraid to take. They’re giving participants the confidence to apply for jobs that take them beyond their comfort level. They are, in short, encouraging women to embrace risk and work collaboratively, to lean into new opportunities.
I hope that LinkedIn members who are studying computer science and engineering or already working in these fields will consider starting or joining a Lean In Circle in their area. The lifelong relationships that can arise out of such groups are a key resource for anyone to develop and an important tactic for creating stronger, more diverse workplaces that will ultimately lead to a more productive world for all of us.
And Whitney wrote in a post on the Anita Borg Institute site:
I am pleased to announce that the Anita Borg Institute is partnering with the Lean In Foundation, Facebook and LinkedIn on a new global effort to create and expand Lean In Circles focused on Computer Science and Engineering on college campuses. Our objective is to greatly expand the presence and engagement of Lean In circles and chapters on campus.
In our work at the Anita Borg Institute, and at our annual Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, we see the impact that meeting and connecting with peers has on students. In 2014, a record 2,786 students attended GHC. As a result of their experience at GHC, 88 percent of students increased their commitment to a technology career.
Access to and engagement with inspirational role models and career guidance can be life-changing. But GHC only happens once a year. What if you had access to a strong, structured network year-round? This is the promise of the Lean In Circles.
What role will ABI play in this new expansion of student circles? Through GHC and our ongoing engagement with student communities, we have gathered rich resources in the form of stories, videos and other content to help students organize their local gatherings and connect with others around the world.
I am very much looking forward to meeting many of the new Circle members, and to have the chance to learn from them as well as to support them through our content.
This is an important effort for us. In partnership with Sheryl Sandberg, the wonderful Lean In staff including Rachel Thomas and Ashley Finch, as well as the Facebook and LinkedIn team, we can and will change the face of student chapters around the world.
Readers: What are your initial thoughts on the Lean In CS&E Chapter?