With the publication of her 2013 book Lean In, Facebook's Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg is one of the strongest voices working to help inspire more women to become leaders. Now Sandberg has set her sights on another problem: the lack of women in tech.
Facebook announced a partnership with LinkedIn, LeanIn.org and the Anita Borg Institute to form a special Lean In Circle on college campuses just for female students majoring in computer science or engineering. Lean In Circles are small groups that meet to discuss issues under the Lean In umbrella, such as gender, leadership and life goals. Sandberg hopes that the Computer Science & Engineering Chapter of Lean In Circles will help women continue on the path to careers in tech.
"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,' Sandberg wrote in a Facebook post announcing the new initiative Friday.
This new Circle couldn't come at a better time. Women make up 18 percent of computer science majors today, compared to 35 percent in 1985, according to Sandberg's Facebook post. Headlines about sexism in STEM and lackluster diversity reports from major tech companies, Facebook included, constantly fill our feeds.
In order to get more women in computer science, this special Lean In Circle chapter will also include livestream sessions with Sandberg and LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner and educational materials and mentorship from the Anita Borg Institute, which organizes the annual Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing. There are now more than 21,500 Circles in 97 countries and 330 college campuses.
The Computer Science & Engineering Chapter has somewhat of a two-pronged approach to getting more women involved in STEM. First, it's meant as a way to encourage them to stick to their majors and pursue a career in tech. And then once they land that job, they can seek guidance from their fellow Circle members on any challenges they may encounter on the job, from sexism to asking for a raise to going for a promotion.
Reaching young women in tech as they're about to enter the workforce could definitely be a good way to keep them inspired to remain on that career path. However, it's obviously going to take more changes than a new discussion group to get more women in STEM. But it's a start.