Challenge Model Practice
WomEng


Twitter Inc.

Principle II: Work-life balance and career development

Principle VI: Civic and community engagement

2013 Challenge Submission

 


Incorporated in 2007 and headquartered in San Francisco, Twitter is a global platform for public self­expression and conversation in real time, enabling any voice to echo around the world instantly and unfiltered. The service can be accessed at Twitter.com, via Twitter mobile applications for a variety of devices, and by text message. Available in more than 35 languages, Twitter has more than 241 million monthly active users who send 500 million Tweets per day. Of the 2,700 employees around the world, 50% are engineers.

“WomEng has taken on the [responsibility] to encourage and inspire girls to join STEM fields. In so doing, they’ve taken a leadership position inside the company and driven company values around community service.”
Adam Messinger
Chief Technology Officer, Twitter

In 2011, Twitter started Women in Engineering (WomEng) to make Twitter the model of a great workplace for women engineers. Now firmly established within the company, WomEng is a group of women and men, engineers and non­engineers, who are all committed to supporting the advancement of women engineers at Twitter and across the industry, encouraging girls and women to pursue technical studies and careers, and creating an inclusive culture for women at Twitter.

How does this model practice work?

With more than 140 employee members, WomEng is a broad­based employee­driven initiative. Twitter employees propose potential partnerships with community organizations, and community organizations reach out to Twitter asking for support or volunteers. For smaller initiatives, the WomEng leadership team decides which organizations and activities align with Twitter’s vision. For larger initiatives, they work closely with senior executives, including the CEO, all of whom are extremely supportive. The leadership team meets regularly to review current initiatives and discuss potential new ones. For each initiative, a lead member is appointed from among the group to drive the initiative, either independently or with small teams.

Reflecting the Gender Equality Principle of “Civic and Community Engagement,” WomEng encourages high levels of employee participation with partner organizations in the community through:

  1. sponsoring community­based organizations
  2. hosting events
  3. mentoring women and girls.

Sponsorships

Being a sponsoring organization has been important to WomEng’s impact in the community. Twitter was one of the first companies to partner with Girls Who Code at its creation in 2012. Girls who Code launched in New York City, offering a new model for computer science education for girls, including robotics, web design, and app development led by top women engineers and entrepreneurs. Now in five cities nationwide including San Francisco, Girls Who Code convenes an annual Summer Immersion Program for girls. In 2012, Twitter also hosted the San Francisco program at its headquarters. In addition to employee­driven fundraising efforts in support of Girls Who Code, Chief Technology Officer Adam Messinger sits on the organization’s Board of Directors.

Hosting events

WomEng supports community organizations that focus on expanding software engineering opportunities for women. Twitter has hosted organizations such as Girldevelopit!, PyLadies, and CodeChix. In 2012, Twitter hosted the Technovation Challenge, a competition specifically for girls who partner with mentors to develop mobile apps and business plans to pitch to prospective investors. The challenge culminates in the World Pitch Event, also hosted by Twitter in 2013, where 10 finalists compete for $10,000 in seed money. WomEng members served as mentors to girls participating in the program. Recently, Twitter also hosted #ChimeHack, a Chime For Change hackathon for mobile app solutions supporting women and non­profits around the world.

Mentorships

“I'm delighted to work with such inspiring peers at Twitter. By helping me bond with other engineers, and enabling me to do volunteer work and serve as a role model to girls, WomEng is a major part of that experience.”
Sharon Wong
Software Engineer, Twitter

Mentorship, crucial to the advancement of women and girls in engineering, has been a primary focus of WomEng. Twitter participates in the U.S. State Department’s TechWomen program, which fosters the next generation of women leaders from Africa and the Middle East in science, technology, engineering, and math; in 2012, Twitter provided its first Professional Mentor, increasing this to seven Professional and Cultural Mentors in 2013. Additionally, WomEng members aim to inspire computer science students through programs such as Berkeley’s Computer Science Kickstart, Stanford’s Women in Computer Science mentorship program, and Computer Science for San Francisco summer camp. They also coordinate other volunteer activities such as visiting local middle and high schools to share their passion for engineering with students, hosting code labs with Black Girls Code, and holding women­only sessions at Tenderloin TechLab, an organization that helps local residents become familiar with consumer technology.

Metrics

WomEng regularly looks at metrics, such as engagement level and participation, and sets concrete quarterly goals for the organization. In order to measure the success of their actions for improving diversity in the tech industry, WomEng has defined a number of metrics, including:

  • the number of employees on the distribution list
  • the number of employees at each event
  • membership engagement, including how active each is in the initiative
  • employee surveys to determine how well they perceive Twitter is addressing gender
View Ann Lehman's profile on LinkedIn

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