(Image: S. King for the Research Coalition of Black Women and Girls in Computing 2016)
BlackEnterprise.com caught up with the Research Coalition of Black Women and Girls in Computing Conference Committee leadership Chair Dr. Jamika Burge and co-Chairs Drs. Jakita Thomas and Ryoko Yamaguchi to discuss all things computing and technical careers. They provided important background on their organization and shed light on why this career path is so compelling.
BlackEnterprise.com: What was the motivation behind creating the Research Coalition of Black Women and Girls in Computing?
RCBW&GIC: Black women are one of the least represented groups in the computing discipline. The Black Women in Computing (BWIC) community exists primarily to celebrate the contributions of black women in computing and technical careers and provide communal support and outreach for its members.
The Research Coalition of Black Women and Girls in Computing serves as the research arm of the BWIC community. Created in 2016, it seeks to investigate—through empirical research—ways to combat the lack of awareness of black women in this space. It also seeks to create a body of research focused on and informed by the exploration of the common experiences of black girls and women in computing. The Coalition also plans the annual conference for black women in computing every January.
BE: What has been the biggest hurdle in demonstrating the value in computing-related fields?
RCBW&GIC: Computing has become an integral part of our lives. We use smartphones, laptops, and tablets to do everything from surfing the internet to completing substantive work in every industry. Computing—computer science, more broadly— enables us to apply computational thinking to solve a range of problems.
From developing social media platforms to connecting people, performing data analytics to discovering insights from large amounts of data, and ensuring that the technologies we develop are usable by everyone, computing is an effective problem-solving methodology. To continue to grow as a discipline and truly innovate, computing must embrace the ideas and solutions created from a diverse talent pool.
BE: What are core goals for the foreseeable future?
RCBW&GIC: Immediate goals for the Research Coalition of Black Women and Girls in Computing include continuing to address the issues of intersectionality that are inherently part of the black women in the computing community.
After the January conference, we will cultivate our partnerships to provide research and development workshops for computing students and professionals. We are also in the midst of data collection to better articulate the intersectional experiences of black women in computing and how they are similar to and different from the experiences of women in computing, more generally.
BE: If you could offer one piece of advice to young black women who are undecided about entering a computing related field, what would that be?
RCBW&GIC: Anything worth pursuing will have its challenges. A career in computing is no exception. One amazing benefit, however, is that no black woman interested in pursuing a career in computing needs to feel alone. There is an amazing community available to support her at any stage, whether she’s just starting out or a senior-level professional. We encourage young black women, in particular, to reach out, connect, and network with the BWIC community.
Karima Mariama-Arthur, Esq. is the founder and CEO of WordSmithRapport, an international consulting firm specializing in professional development. Follow her on Twitter: @wsrapport or visit her website, WordSmithRapport.com.