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Facebook and LinkedIn want to boost dwindling numbers of women studying engineering and computer science with a collaborative initiative announced Friday that they hope will eventually fill thousands of lucrative Silicon Valley jobs long dominated by men.
In an exclusive joint interview with The Associated Press, Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg and LinkedIn CEO Jeffrey Weiner said they're launching mentoring and support programs at colleges to get more women involved in studying technology in general, but also as future employees for their companies.
Fifteen percent of Facebook Inc.'s employees working in tech jobs and 31 percent of all employees are women. At LinkedIn Corp., women comprise 17 percent of its tech employees and 39 percent of employees overall.
"A lot of our consumers, at least half, sometimes more, are women. We build a product that gives people a voice. We know we can't build a product for the world unless our teams reflect the diversity of the people who use the product," Sandberg said.
But the talent pool is shrinking: The percentage of people enrolled in undergraduate computer science programs who are women peaked at 35 percent in 1985 and is now down to about 17 percent.
The executives would not disclose how much of a financial commitment they are making, but the investment is different in that it's more focused on peer groups and a mentoring process already established through Lean In Circles. They hope it will go global, with groups at public and private universities.