Enabling Courage: Agentic Strategies of Women of Color in Computing

A.K. Hodari, Mia Ong, Lily Ko, & J. Smith
Research in Equity and Sustained Participation in Engineering, Computing and Technology (RESPECT), 2015, pp. 1-7. Paper presented at RESPECT 2015/Charlotte, NC


Since its inception, our project, Computing Beyond the Double Bind: Women of Color in Computing Education and Careers (CBDB), has sought to understand the factors that promote success for these women, who are vastly under-represented in this field. We also seek to add to the existing knowledge base by highlighting how policy and practice can create increased opportunities. So far, we have reported on mentoring methods that support women of color, as well as a unique enactment of activism by women of color in computing. (We define activism as volunteer work in which women engage for the purpose of increasing diversity in the field.) Such activism is an example of a strategy in which women use their own agency to increase opportunities for others like them, a strategy we have found in other disciplines also indirectly supports their own success. What is not fully understood are the many ways women of color act directly, using their own agency to create success for themselves. These agentic strategies are the focus of our current analysis, the strategies they use rather than those enacted upon them by others. In this paper, we present findings from our interviews with women computing students and professionals of color, who describe their approaches, often inspired by those who teach, mentor and even challenge them. Among the most compelling findings are those strategies women employ when they witness the successes and failures of others, and are inspired to try new things.