For all its cutting-edgeinnovation, tech remains a male-dominated industry a reality Sheryl Sandberg knows well. So in 2013, she releasedLean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead. Part-autobiography, part-manifesto, the bestseller inspired Lean In Circles: nearly 21,600 groups in 97 countries, where members support one another on goals like landing that promotion or handling a big job switch.
Before she joined Facebook as its Chief Operating Officer in 2008, the 45-year-old author and mother of two worked at Google for nearly seven years as vice president of Global Online Sales and Operations. While Sandberg built an impressive career, she couldn’t ignore tech’s gender equality gap. So in 2013, she released Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead. Part-autobiography, part-manifesto, the bestseller inspired Lean In Circles: nearly 21,600 groups in 97 countries, where members support one another on goals like landing that promotion or handling a big job switch.
Now Sandberg is skewing younger. On Friday, Facebook announced a partnership with LinkedIn, LeanIn.org and the Anita Borg Institute to form Circles aimed at women studying computer science or engineering. Just 18% of female students major in computer science, down from 35% in 1985. By offering Lean In Circles on college campuses, Sandberg hopes more female students will choose a technical career and stick with it.
There are currently Circles at over 330 college campuses, including Harvard, NYU, Stanford and the University of Tennessee. Sandberg and LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner plan on doing livestream sessions with students; Facebook and LinkedIn will develop programming and lend staffers’ time to help identify women students to run Circles. The Anita Borg Institute, which puts on the annual Grace Hopper Celebration for Women in Computing, will offer educational materials and mentorship from its impressive rolodex, which includes Google X’s Head of Display Vision Mary Lou Jepsen, famed computer scientist Maria Klawe and computing pioneer Frances E. Allen.
Students including Jessica Boles, a senior at the University of Tennessee, say their on-campus Circles proved instrumental. An electrical engineering major graduating this spring, Boles says her Circle became the inspiration for throwing her college’s first-ever engineering conference for women in April. Meanwhile, Columbia University exchange student Maria Hollweck has launched eight difference Circles. Hollweck, who learned to code at 13 and landed her first job with a German tech company at 16, says being in a Circle reinforced her dedication to working in tech.
“Right now the world is pretty constricted for them,” Sandberg says. “Maybe one day, my son will want to work at home and be a full-time parent. The world needs to applaud and support him doing that, because if you talk to working full-time fathers, that support is not there. One day my daughter might want to be a great engineer or a great leader, and right now, that’s harder for women than it is for men. So, this is about changing that and changing that for the next generation.” Read more…