Profiles

LinkedIn: Encouraging High School Students to Study STEM

LinkedIn has taken many actions to promote gender parity in the tech field, including sending employees to seminars on diversity or to training on speaking at tech conferences. Perhaps the most prominent of LinkedIn’s efforts to promote inclusion is their Women in Tech (WIT) program. LinkedIn’s female executives lead this program to empower their employees and help them thrive in their careers. “Members commit 20 percent of their time to WIT,” said Sarah Clatterbuck, LinkedIn’s Director of Engineering and a leader of WIT.

In 2014, the leaders of WIT wanted to reach out to women outside of their company, specifically students, and encourage them to enter STEM. In 2015, a pilot program dedicated to introducing students to coding was launched: the High School Trainee Program.

Reaching Out to Students

Computer science is still considered by many to be a “boys only” subject, with men dominating the field. In fact, research shows that in 2012, only 21 percent of women in the U.S. majored in computer science. The High School Trainee Program aims to change this statistic by mentoring female students, increasing their confidence, and showing them women do belong in STEM.

The participants of the High School Trainee Program are mentored by LinkedIn employees. Both male and female employees are encouraged to volunteer as mentors for this program. “We want the change initiative to be inclusive of both genders,” Sarah explained. After mentors are trained, they are each assigned to work with a small group of girls “so the girls can help each other and work together on the projects.”

The high school students, who were recommended for the High School Trainee Program by several of LinkedIn’s partners, came from a number of local schools. Seven students participated during the first year, and although the program was still just a pilot, the outcome was phenomenal.

Inspiring Results

After eight weeks of training, the students were asked whether they would go on to major in a STEM subject. 100 percent answered they would, and all but one girl said they would study computer science specifically. Two years later, that same girl contacted Sarah to discuss switching her major to computer science.

The next year, 10 students participated in the pilot program. Once again, 100 percent of them answered that they would major in a STEM subject, with all but one stating they would go into computer science.

All of the students from both the 2015 and 2016 programs also stated they would recommend the High School Trainee Program to a friend and they would continue coding in the future.

With such impressive results, LinkedIn is excited to expand this program. They plan to increase the number of both mentors and participants, and will reach out to underrepresented schools to make the program more inclusive. Sarah also added that she hopes other companies will start programs like this. “For 2017, we want to open source our curriculum, logistics, and philosophy for other companies to follow,” she said.

We can’t wait to see just how LinkedIn’s High School Trainee Program will evolve and, more importantly, how many students it will inspire!