2019 CoNECD - The Collaborative Network for Engineering and Computing Diversity

Too Black to be a Woman and Too Much Woman to be a Man: Best Practices from Black Women Persisting through Doctoral Engineering and Computing Programs

Presented at Track : Graduate - Technical Session 8

Black women are often underrepresented in engineering despite reports that a higher percentage of Black women (9.7%) are enrolled in college than any other group, exceeding Asian women (8.7%), White women (7.1%) and White men (6.1%) [1].The proposed workshop will discuss the ongoing Niela Project and highlight the best practices Black women in doctoral engineering and computing programs are adapting to thrive in academia.

The Niela Project is an NSF-funded research initiative (Award Number: EEC 1648332) aimed to gain an in-depth understanding of the experiences of Black women in engineering and computer science, a group that is often overlooked. The proposed workshop will focus on increasing awareness and understanding of best practices Black women adapt to thrive in engineering and computing. The target audience for this session are Black women interested in or pursuing advanced degrees in STEM disciplines and faculty and administrators working with Black women in advanced programs. Suggested audience also includes individuals who are dedicated to understanding and positively impacting marginalized or underrepresented populations. An understanding of this population will better inform practices and policies aimed at broadening participation in engineering.

Format: This workshop is designed to be interactive and informative of pressing issues impacting the experiences of Black women in engineering and computing. The session will begin with case studies of thriving Black doctoral women in engineering and computing. These case studies will serve as a catalyst for engagement and aims to increase participants’ understanding of Black women experiences. Following the case studies, the presenters will lead a discussion that focuses on best practices that emerged from the Niela project. Special attention will be dedicated to strategies Black doctoral women use to:
• Adapting multiple identities that impact their experience in engineering and computing.
• Coping with intersectionality of STEM, gender, and race identity.

Th workshop will also share best practices to cultivate environments where Black women’s multiple identities are equally accepted, including cultural capital.

At the end of the workshop, the presenters will facilitate small group discussions of best practices to improve outcomes in the academic and professional lives of Black women in STEM and other marginalized communities. There will be a special emphasis on developing an authentic understanding of the challenges Black women face in STEM academic and professional environments.

Session Goals for Participants
Attending this workshop will offer the participants:
• A better understanding of promising practices for serving and supporting marginalized and underrepresented communities in engineering.
• A deeper comprehension (and hopefully enhanced empathy) of the unique needs and challenges of Black women in engineering, particularly those in doctoral and post-doctoral programs.
• Knowledge of strategies for creating environments where all identities, particularly those of Black women are welcomed in academic and professional engineering spaces.

1. U.S. Department of Education National Center of Educational Statistics: National Study of America: Indicators of Social and Economic well-Being. Retrieved on August, 28, 2014 from http://www.whitehouse.gov/administration/eop/cwg/data-on-women.

  1. Dr. Sharnnia Artis University of California, Irvine [biography]
  2. Dr. Stacie LeSure Engineers for Equity [biography]
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