Together We’re Better: 255 Lean In CS&E Circles created in 2015
March 10, 2016
“When I first started college, I wasn’t a confident student," recalled Tessa Hurr, a sophomore at Columbia University, who attended this year's Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing. "As soon as I was accepted to Columbia’s Engineering School, I was looking for ways to transfer out."
Tessa first decided she wanted to pursue a career in computer science back in high school but her excitement quickly faded as she was faced with the challenges of being a woman in this field. "I would tell people I was still thinking about studying Computer Science, because I didn’t think I was smart enough or hard-working enough."
This is a storyline women tell all too often. Tessa is one of many who are currently working towards, navigating, or still contemplating careers in technology, but lack the support they need to be confident and successful in careers dominated by men. In 1985, women accounted for 35 percent of computer science undergraduates. Today, they represent 18 percent. Our culture drove women away from this promising field. We can't let this trend continue. We know that the solution lies in creating supportive social structures for women and providing them with female role models, mentors and colleagues who are successful in tech.
At LinkedIn, we are constantly working to level the gender gap in tech and inspire change within our community and industry. This is why we partnered with Lean In, the Anita Borg Institute, and Facebook last year to launch Lean In Computer Science & Engineering (CS&E) Chapters – a global network of Lean In Circles focused on bringing women together who are studying or interested in computer science and engineering. Circles can be a monthly roundtable at a home, a brown-bag lunch series at work, or even a virtual meet-up with people from around the world. What matters most is connecting people regularly so they can learn from each other and grow together.
In all of our Women in Tech initiatives, we've found that there's almost always strength in numbers. Just like Tessa cannot navigate this world alone, we cannot take the weight of leveling the gender gap alone. Our CS&E Chapters and Circles help women pursue their career goals by providing a community for students to be mentored and nurtured by their peers and advocates. This program is essential for encouraging students like Tessa to not give up. “Stay in tech,” as Sheryl Sandberg put it at the Grace Hopper Celebration.
We launched our first CS&E Chapter in February 2015, at the WeCode Conference at Harvard University, with the goal of creating 100 circles by the end of the year. We have far surpassed our goal, with 255 CS&E Circles and more than 6,000 members around the world.
The last year has been amazing to say the least. We hosted Circle sessions at the Grace Hopper Celebration, where Sheryl Sandberg spoke about why women need to, as she put it, “stay in tech.” We launched the Bay Area Lean In-tern Summer Program, supporting 400 student interns at more than 115 tech companies in Silicon Valley. Our chapter leaders also traveled to 25 American universities to promote CS&E and share the power of our Circles for students. Online, members are engaging with their peers and building a global community.
We are always hearing from our members that these Circles boost their confidence and connect them with their community. Tessa, who became part of the original CS&E Chapter Lean In Circles on Columbia's campus spring semester, is still studying Computer Science. Now a CS&E Circle moderator, she credits her change in perspective to Lean In's CS&E Chapter, which provided her the support she needed to tackle her hesitations. She says Circles encouraged her to realize that if she thought of Computer Science as a temporary path, it would be. Now when people ask what she’s studying, she simply says Computer Science.
LinkedIn is proud to be at the forefront of driving change in the tech industry and this partnership is crucial to our mission of inspiring women in tech. But the work doesn't stop here. We encourage students, employees and companies alike to continue building a stronger community alongside us by joining Lean In's CS&E Chapter. Make the investment in yourself, your company, and your future.
To join the CS&E Chapter and start a Circle, check out www.leanin.org/cse.
Already involved in a CS&E Chapter? Let us know by adding it to your LinkedIn Profile under Organizations. If you are leading a CS&E Circle, add it as part of your Work Experience.