Graduate school can be a lonely place, particularly for a woman in a male-dominated research area. Kaitlin Fair, an off-campus electrical and computer engineering Ph.D. student, felt isolated in her lab as she realized many of the social structures she enjoyed during her time as an undergraduate student had evaporated. Fair knew that there were other women at Georgia Tech in the same boat, so she set about bringing together a community for support and friendship. Inspired by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s TEDTalk and popular book Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead, Fair found the LeanIn.org website, a resource that supports women through community building and education and offers ongoing inspiration and guidance to help them achieve their goals.
The LeanIn.org website provides free lessons in leadership, communication, work/life balance, and short and long-term well-being. The overall theme in these lessons is to step outside of your comfort zone with courage and confidence.
Fair started a Georgia Tech Lean In Chapter in April of 2015 with the help of fellow students Marissa Connor, electrical and computer engineering; Shan Tie, chemical and biomolecular engineering; Dalar Nazarian, chemical and biomolecular engineering; and Chelsea Jean-Mary, electrical and computer engineering. Organized by “circles” of up to eight members, the chapter now has three circles that meet for one hour a month and follow the guided lessons. Each circle is diverse as far as member backgrounds, areas of study, and work experience, but all circles are made up of peers.
“The group provides a support system that is difficult to find organically as a graduate student. Our meetings consist of intimate, genuine conversations with women in similar situations,” said Fair.
Currently the 45 members are all graduate students studying a variety of subjects including computing, science, business, engineering, and architecture. Fair hopes that more students will join as word spreads about the organization, particularly undergraduates. Fair would also like to see men join the group.
“If you’re talking about gender equality, you can’t make change with only half the population,” said Fair.
Last revised November 13, 2017