MentorNet Partners with LinkedIn on STEM Mentoring Initiative to Increase the Number of Women Pursuing Tech Careers

Mountain View, Calif. – MentorNet, a national nonprofit organization that provides online mentoring designed to increase the number of women and minority students pursuing science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers, announced today a partnership with LinkedIn. The initiative is designed to encourage more women to pursue careers in technology, aligning the need for skilled workers in the U.S. with a diverse pool of talent. MentorNet’s goal is to match 40,000 students with mentors over the next two years. The partnership also includes the largest philanthropic investment LinkedIn has made to date, which will support updating MentorNet’s technology platform.

“The power of LinkedIn’s network will be instrumental in expanding MentorNet’s reach,” said MentorNet’s CEO Mary Fernandez. “Both organizations want to connect talent with opportunities to ensure that the technology industry has a more sustainable workforce. Using an online social platform has the ability to bring people together who would otherwise never find one another. We know the main issues that hold women back from pursuing degrees and careers in STEM fields; now we have a scalable solution.”

According to LinkedIn data, women represent just 30 percent of the workforce within the technology industry, and when looking at software engineering roles within the technology industry, only 15 percent are held by women. Research shows that women are initially interested in tech careers, but often do not complete STEM degrees or pursue careers in technology for non-academic reasons. Students may leave programs for personal, financial or social reasons such as dealing with being the only woman of color in their program or balancing family life with a demanding career.

MentorNet will expand their work connecting students, called protégés, with professionals in relevant fields who act as mentors by leveraging LinkedIn’s growing network of 277 million professionals. Both individuals agree to commit 15 minutes each week over the course of four months and use an online social platform to meet and address common issues that women and minorities face when pursuing STEM careers. Based on social science research, guided content is provided by MentorNet to help mentors respond to challenges students face at different stages of their degree program.

Already, MentorNet is seeing great success with its approach. Students who receive mentoring and support from MentorNet are twice as likely to graduate with a degree in a STEM field, completing their studies at a rate of 92 percent. Since half of those graduates pursue job opportunities at their mentors’ companies, MentorNet and LinkedIn’s partnership will also allow employers to develop stronger connections to top tech talent as well as serve as a direct recruiting tool for companies.

“By leveraging LinkedIn’s 277 million members, MentorNet can more easily reach individuals who are interested in volunteering their time,” said Meg Garlinghouse, Head of LinkedIn for Good. “To date, more than 600,000 members have indicated their interest in either serving on a board or doing skill-based volunteering, which shows a growing interest in supporting causes like MentorNet’s.”

Adriana Lopez-Alt, a doctoral student who will graduate from New York University this spring, was considering dropping out when she joined MentorNet at Fernandez’s protégé in 2011.

“Being part of MentorNet has been a wonderful experience. Mary has been there with me every step of the way,” said Lopez-Alt. “She's given me the confidence to speak about my research and to promote myself and my career. Because of her mentoring, I have applied for the most competitive internships and full-time positions, which gave me the opportunity to work with world-class researchers. All this is making it possible for me to land my dream job, something that seemed unreachable before I joined MentorNet.”

Fernandez was able to relate to Lopez-Alt’s situation.

“As a college student, I struggled with financial issues that, at one point, resulted in me dropping out of school,” said Fernandez. “If it weren’t for the support I received from a mentor, I would not have finished my Ph.D. in computer science, nor have embarked upon a successful career in industrial research. I joined MentorNet to help women and minorities who, like Adriana, are aspiring to be technology professionals but just need a little help.”

About MentorNet

Founded in 1997, MentorNet is a national nonprofit dedicated to fostering a pervasive culture of mentoring women and minorities in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields. MentorNet pairs professionals as mentors with student protégés in one-on-one, guided relationships using the technology of social networks and social science of mentoring. Through this work, MentorNet is helping to create a diverse 21st century STEM workforce that ensures all have the opportunity to contribute to innovation and prosperity.

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