TERC’s Nuria Jaumot-Pascual, Mia Ong, Christina Silva, and Audrey Martínez-Gudapakkam presented their paper “Women of Color in Computing Graduate Education: Structural Supports and Navigation Strategies for a Hostile Culture” at the RESPECT conference on May 27, 2021.
Abstract: This paper presents themes that emerge from empirical literature on women of color (WOC) in computer science (CS) graduate education. We ask, according to the literature, what factors affect the experiences, participation, and advancement of WOC in CS graduate degrees? The findings are drawn from a subset of literature on graduate education from our National Science Foundation-funded project, Literature Analysis and Synthesis of Women of Color in Technology and Computing. Findings of on-campus social supports include student support groups and peers who provided community, navigation strategies, and motivation to succeed. Family and friends also provided recognition and encouragement. Students attending Historically Black Colleges and Universities reported that their schools provided them with structural support through recognition and investment in their potential. Findings of barriers include a sense of isolation, as well as professors and male classmates creating a culture of hostility and exclusion for WOC. Despite these challenges, WOC used individual and social strategies to navigate and persist. They drew on inner strengths, dedication to achieving goals, and past challenges to stay motivated and succeed while also developing soft skills. They were further motivated to use their knowledge of CS as a tool to solve problems and help others. Our synthesis contributes an analysis of the social and structural supports and barriers for WOC in the understudied field of CS graduate education. This research will increase knowledge about success strategies to retain women of color with advanced CS degrees to fill the United States’ technological workforce needs.