LinkedIn touts success of high school program to get women in tech

LinkedIn started a summer high school program in 2015 that gave female students a glimpse into what it’s like to work as a software engineer for seven to eight weeks.

Now the tech firm is hoping other companies will follow in its footsteps.

On Thursday, LinkedIn said it’s making the program’s materials and curriculum available to the public through GitHub.

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“This is a pretty unique program in the sense that these students are actually acting as members of our engineering team. So they’re not in a classroom getting a curriculum separated from the team,” said Sarah Clatterbuck, a senior director of engineering at LinkedIn who helped start the program.

With LinkedIn employees serving as mentors, students this year built a web application and small features in the company’s products. They also participated in team building events and other activities.

Clatterbuck said the tech firm worked with organizations, such as the Girl Scouts, and teachers to find students who might not consider studying computer science. That included students who were going to be the first in their families to attend college.

From 2015 to 2017, only 27 students have completed LinkedIn’s high school program. But Clatterbuck said the company has intentionally kept the program small.

“We need to be able to provide a really enriching environment here in terms of mentorship and teams who are working with the students,” she said.

Like other tech firms in Silicon Valley, LinkedIn has also struggled to hire more female engineers. In 2016, women held about 20 percent of the company’s technical jobs.

So far, LinkedIn has seen promising results from its high school program. About 96 percent of students who completed the program said they would “definitely” or “most likely” study science, technology, engineering or math when they went to college.

The program has also helped boost the confidence of female students unsure about whether they should study a STEM subject in college.

This year, the percentage of students who said they were “very confident” in their decision to study a STEM subject in college rose from 20 percent to 80 percent during the program.

“Thousands of students in the Bay Area alone would crave this type of opportunity so we’re hoping that by open sourcing what we’ve done other companies will pick up these materials and run similar programs,” Clatterbuck said.

Photo: LinkedIn’s headquarters. (Paul Sakuma/AP)

 

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