Female Engineering Students Establish “Lean In Circle” for Technical Careers

Women in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at UT (WEECS) members a from left to right: Meg Drouhard, Master of Science student in computer science (CS), secretary of internal affairs for WEECS; Casey Miller, PhD student in CS, secretary of external affairs for WEECS; Katie Schuman, PhD candidate in CS, vice president for WEECS; Zahra Mahoor, PhD student in CS; chair of outreach activities for WEECS; and Denise Koessler, PhD candidate in CS; Lean In leader and brand ambassador, president of WEECS.

Women in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at UT (WEECS) members a from left to right: Meg Drouhard, Master of Science student in computer science (CS), secretary of internal affairs for WEECS; Casey Miller, PhD student in CS, secretary of external affairs for WEECS; Katie Schuman, PhD candidate in CS, vice president for WEECS; Zahra Mahoor, PhD student in CS; chair of outreach activities for WEECS; and Denise Koessler, PhD candidate in CS; Lean In leader and brand ambassador, president of WEECS.

The national Lean In women’s professional movement has landed on the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, campus.

New York Times best-seller Lean In, written by Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook, has prompted a conversation change to focus on what women can do rather than not do, to advance their careers and influence. “Lean In Circles”—small peer groups that meet regularly to learn and share together—have formed worldwide.

The on-campus group, “Women in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS) at UT” was asked to be the founding circle in a new partnership between LeanIn.Org, a private foundation focused on encouraging women to pursue their ambitions, and the Anita Borg Institute, a nonprofit organization focused on the advancement of women in computing.

ABI is developing a curriculum specifically designed for women pursuing careers in the technical industry that complements Lean In’s growing library of free online lectures.

UT’s circle aims to provide mentorship for the enrolled students, create outreach activities, and ignite a community within the department. It also aims to increase the enrollment of female students in UT’s program, which stands at 5 percent for undergraduate students and 22 percent for graduate students.

“UT’s circle includes members, events, collections, and posts and provides a virtual community to help us recruit, mentor and retain women in EECS,” said Denise Koessler, host of the circle, PhD candidate, and co-announcer of the partnership with leaders from ABI, Lean In, and Sandberg at ABI’s annual conference in Minneapolis.

ABI Lean In Circles are designed specifically for women who are pursuing—or considering pursuing—technology careers. ABI is developing specialized discussion guides, videos, training, and resource materials to help women recognize their strengths, set goals, overcome challenge, and have successful careers in technology.

“Since our launch April 2013, we have been using Facebook, Google Groups, Dropbox, and email to keep connected,” said Koessler. “Our entire collection of information was a mess. When we moved everything to our circle, it took us twenty minutes to organize six months of information from across a multitude of platforms.”

Koessler says the circle is easy and gives the students a voice and a home to help achieve their goals.

To learn more about Women in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at UT, visit the group’s website.

ABI Lean In Circles are available immediately at leanin.org/anitaborg and www.anitaborg.org. For more information about Lean In, visit www.leanin.org.

 

C O N T A C T :

Whitney Heins (865-974-5460, wheins@utk.edu)

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