FOR WOMEN OF COLOR
Evelynn Hammonds, Valerie Taylor, and Rebekah Hutton, Editors
Committee on Addressing the Underrepresentation
of Women of Color in Tech
Board on Higher Education and Workforce
Policy and Global Affairs
A Consensus Study Report of
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This activity was supported by contracts between the National Academy of Sciences, National Institute of Standards and Technology (SB134117CQ0017/1333ND20FNB100131), and National Science Foundation (CNS-1923245). Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect the views of any organization or agency that provided support for the project.
International Standard Book Number-13: 978-0-309-26897-4
International Standard Book Number-10: 0-309-26897-4
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Suggested citation: National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Transforming Trajectories for Women of Color in Tech. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/26345.
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COMMITTEE ON ADDRESSING THE UNDERREPRESENTATION OF WOMEN OF COLOR IN TECH
EVELYNN M. HAMMONDS (Chair), Barbara Gutmann Rosenkrantz Professor of the History of Science, Professor of African and African American Studies, Harvard University
VALERIE TAYLOR (Chair), Director, Mathematics and Computer Science Division, Argonne National Laboratory; CEO and President, Center for Minorities and People with Disabilities in IT
GILDA BARABINO, President, Olin College of Engineering
SARITA E. BROWN, Co-founder and President, Excelencia in Education
JAMIKA D. BURGE, Director of Design Research, Capital One; Co-Founder of blackcomputeHER.org
FRANCES COLÓN, Senior Director, Center for American Progress
SARAH ECHOHAWK, Chief Executive Officer, American Indian Science and Engineering Society
ELENA FUENTES-AFFLICK, Professor of Pediatrics and Vice Dean for Academic Affairs, University of California, San Francisco
ANN QUIROZ GATES, Senior Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs and Director, Computing Alliance of Hispanic-Serving Institutions, The University of Texas at El Paso
SHAWNDRA HILL, Senior Lecturer, Columbia Business School, Columbia University
MARIA (MIA) ONG, Senior Research Scientist and Evaluator, TERC
MANUEL A. PÉREZ-QUIÑONES, Professor, Department of Software and Information Systems, University of North Carolina, Charlotte
KARL W. REID, Senior Vice Provost and Chief Inclusion Officer, Northeastern University
ALLISON SCOTT, Chief Executive Officer, Kapor Center for Social Impact
KIMBERLY A. SCOTT, Professor of Women and Gender Studies, Arizona State University
RAQUEL TAMEZ, Chief Executive Officer, Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (until January 2021)
BRENDA DARDEN WILKERSON, President and Chief Executive Officer, AnitaB.org (until November 2020)
CYNTHIA WINSTON-PROCTOR, Professor of Psychology, Howard University; Principal, Winston Synergy, LLC
REBEKAH HUTTON, Program Officer and Study Director
ASHLEY BEAR, Acting Board Director
ALEX HELMAN, Program Officer (until October 2020)
PRIYANKA NALAMADA, Associate Program Officer (from April 2020)
MARQUITA WHITING, Senior Program Assistant
CRYSTAL GRANT, Mirzayan Fellow (January 2020 to April 2020)
ADRIANA COUREMBIS, Senior Financial Business Partner (until May 2020)
BARDIA MASSOUDKHAN, Senior Financial Business Partner (from May 2020)
THOMAS RUDIN, Board Director, Board on Higher Education and Workforce (until December 2020)
Being the first and only has been a characteristic of many women’s lives in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. The challenges they face in their academic and professional careers seem to resonate across sectors, yet for women of color, in particular, decades of efforts by academic institutions, industry, and government to create strategies for improving not only representation but also inclusion, belonging, and advancement are not moving the needle. Systemic racism, misogyny, ableism, ageism, and a multitude of other factors have perpetuated environments where women of color are often not able to fully use their talents in authentic ways. Increasing numbers of girls and women in tech without addressing these systemic factors will not produce sustainable change.
There is a critical need for institutions and organizations to take an intersectional approach—that takes into account how the intersection of race, gender, and economic disparities influences the experiences of women of color—when developing interventions aimed at improving equity, diversity, and inclusion in the vast number of STEM disciplines. Although this committee’s task defines tech as computer science, computer and information science, information technology, and computer engineering, many of the findings and recommendations presented in this report have a broader applicability to transforming the experiences of women of color in tech across a broad range of sectors and contexts.
In much of the published research and data related to the representation of women in tech, the data for women of color have not been disaggregated, and the reported experiences of women do not reflect the experiences and representation
of women of color, which can vary substantially from that of white women. Recent research described in this report demonstrates the importance of addressing the specific needs and particular challenges of women of color who are of African American, Latinx, Asian, American Indian, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian, or other Pacific Islander descent. Within these groups, varied histories, cultures, communities, and support systems shape women’s lived experiences in their academic and professional careers. Data that include these contexts will ensure that descriptions of the experiences of women truly reflect the experiences of all women. Given the widespread use of technology in all disciplines, ranging from the sciences to the humanities, analyses that take these nuanced experiences into account are critically important to transform the trajectories of women of color in technology such that they are engaged and driving technological innovations to produce robust and broadly applicable solutions.
In November 2017, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s Committee on Women in Science, Engineering and Medicine (CWSEM) organized a workshop on Women of Color in STEM attended by approximately 250 individuals. The workshop included two panels; the first one provided a historical perspective—identifying areas in which progress has been made to overcome barriers as well as barriers that still remain. The second panel focused on evidenced-based initiatives and programs to address these barriers. One of the outcomes of the November 2017 CWSEM Workshop on Women of Color in STEM was identification of the need for a consensus study focused on evidence-based initiatives and recommendations to increase the representation of women of color in tech. With funding from the National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the National Academies convened this committee to issue a consensus report on this topic, informed by a series of four regional workshops, published research literature, and other sources of data. The result is this report, with significant findings and recommendations that identify gaps in existing research that obscure the nature of challenges faced by women of color in tech, address systemic issues that negatively affect outcomes for women of color in tech, and provide guidance for transforming existing systems and implementing evidence-based policies and practices to increase the success of women of color in tech.
Persisting inequities such as opportunity gaps and the widening digital divide continue to reveal cracks in our society. Failure to address these issues will cause a generation of talent to be lost as a result of not having access to tools that allow them to access pathways into tech and to thrive in tech disciplines. It is critically important to disaggregate data using an intersectional approach to develop effective strategies for increasing the success of women of color in tech and meet these challenges head on. When policymakers, educators, and corporate leaders study issues related to women in tech, the term “women” must reflect the experi-
ences of all women. We have the tools in place to effect the change we know is required to make a more equitable future. Now is the moment for true change and systemic transformation.
Laboratory Committee Co-Chair
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This report would not have been possible without the contributions of many people. Special thanks go to the members of the committee who dedicated extensive time, expertise, and energy to the drafting of the report. The committee also thanks the members of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine staff: Rebekah Hutton, Ashley Bear, and Priyanka Nalamada for their significant contributions to the report, Alex Helman for her early contributions to the committee’s work, Crystal Grant for her contributions to helping organize the committee’s workshops during her time as a Mirzayan Fellow, and Marquita Whiting and Abigail Harless for their administrative and logistical support of the committee.
The committee would like to thank Karin Matchett for her editing of the report as well as Heather Lavender, Nuria Jaumot-Pascual, Audrey Martínez-Gudapakkam, and Christina B. Silva for their work on the committee’s commissioned literature review. We would also like to thank National Academies staff members who provided invaluable support throughout the project: Tom Rudin for his guidance and leadership; Anne Marie Houppert and Rebecca Morgan for their research support and fact checking; Adriana Courembis and Bardia Massoudkhan for their financial management assistance; Julie Eubank and Christopher King for their insights and guidance; Marilyn Baker and Erik Saari for their guidance through the report review process; and Amy Shifflette, Clair Woolley, and Holly Sten for their assistance with the final production of the report.
Many individuals volunteered significant time and effort to address and educate the committee during our four public workshops. The insights, perspectives, and personal experiences shared with the committee played an essential role in informing the committee’s discussions and deliberations. We thank Stephanie
Adams, Carlotta M. Arthur, Twyla Baker, Sandra Begay, Kamau Bobb, Enobong “Anna” Branch, Mary Schmidt Campbell, Jennifer Carlson, Ashley Carpenter, Julie Carruthers, Nizhoni Chow-Garcia, Dilma Da Silva, Kathy DeerInWater, Andrea Delgado-Olson, Kaye Husbands Fealing, Dwana Franklin-Davis, Juan Gilbert, Raquel Hill, Evelyn Kent, Stephanie Lampkin, Bo Young Lee, Shirley Malcom, Marisela Martinez-Cola, Kyla McMullen, Carolina Huaranca Mendoza, Cherri Pancake, Melonie Parker, Alice Pawley, Denise Peck, Timothy Pinkston, Joan Reede, Dora Renaud, Monique Ross, Beena Sukumaran, Rati Thanawala, Rocío Medina van Nierop, Kenneth Walker, Bridgette Wallace, Gregory Walton, Gloria Washington, JeffriAnne Wilder, and Renee Wittemyer.
This Consensus Study Report was reviewed in draft form by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise. The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that will assist the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine in making each published report as sound as possible and to ensure that it meets the institutional standards for quality, objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the study charge. The review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of the deliberative process.
We thank the following individuals for their review of this report: Lilia Abron, PEER Consultants, P.C.; Sandra Begay, Sandia National Laboratories; Quincy Brown, AnitaB.org; Gabriela Gonzalez, Louisiana State University; Vandana Janeja, University of Maryland, Baltimore County; Patty Lopez, Intel; Rati Thanawala, Harvard University; Roli Varma, University of New Mexico; and Renee Wittemyer, Pivotal Ventures.
Although the reviewers listed above provided many constructive comments and suggestions, they were not asked to endorse the conclusions or recommendations of this report nor did they see the final draft before its release. The review of this report was overseen by Ana P. Barros, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and Shirley M. Malcom, American Association for the Advancement of Science. They were responsible for making certain that an independent examination of this report was carried out in accordance with the standards of the National Academies and that all review comments were carefully considered. Responsibility for the final content rests entirely with the authoring committee and the National Academies.
Finally, the committee would like to thank the sponsors of this study for making this work possible. Funding for this study was provided by the National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Standards and Technology.