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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Transforming Trajectories for Women of Color in Tech. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26345.
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TRANSFORMING TRAJECTORIES
FOR WOMEN OF COLOR
IN TECH

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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THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS
Washington, DC
www.nap.edu

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Transforming Trajectories for Women of Color in Tech. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26345.
×

THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS 500 Fifth Street, NW Washington, DC 20001

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.

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Transforming Trajectories for Women of Color in Tech. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26345.
×

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The National Academy of Sciences was established in 1863 by an Act of Congress, signed by President Lincoln, as a private, nongovernmental institution to advise the nation on issues related to science and technology. Members are elected by their peers for outstanding contributions to research. Dr. Marcia McNutt is president.

The National Academy of Engineering was established in 1964 under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences to bring the practices of engineering to advising the nation. Members are elected by their peers for extraordinary contributions to engineering. Dr. John L. Anderson is president.

The National Academy of Medicine (formerly the Institute of Medicine) was established in 1970 under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences to advise the nation on medical and health issues. Members are elected by their peers for distinguished contributions to medicine and health. Dr. Victor J. Dzau is president.

The three Academies work together as the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine to provide independent, objective analysis and advice to the nation and conduct other activities to solve complex problems and inform public policy decisions. The National Academies also encourage education and research, recognize outstanding contributions to knowledge, and increase public understanding in matters of science, engineering, and medicine.

Learn more about the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine at www.nationalacademies.org.

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Transforming Trajectories for Women of Color in Tech. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26345.
×

Image

Consensus Study Reports published by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine document the evidence-based consensus on the study’s statement of task by an authoring committee of experts. Reports typically include findings, conclusions, and recommendations based on information gathered by the committee and the committee’s deliberations. Each report has been subjected to a rigorous and independent peer-review process and it represents the position of the National Academies on the statement of task.

Proceedings published by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine chronicle the presentations and discussions at a workshop, symposium, or other event convened by the National Academies. The statements and opinions contained in proceedings are those of the participants and are not endorsed by other participants, the planning committee, or the National Academies.

For information about other products and activities of the National Academies, please visit www.nationalacademies.org/about/whatwedo.

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Transforming Trajectories for Women of Color in Tech. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26345.
×

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

Study Staff

REBEKAH HUTTON, Program Officer and Study Director

ASHLEY BEAR, Acting Board Director

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Transforming Trajectories for Women of Color in Tech. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26345.
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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)

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Transforming Trajectories for Women of Color in Tech. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26345.
×

Preface

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

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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Transforming Trajectories for Women of Color in Tech. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26345.
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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-

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Transforming Trajectories for Women of Color in Tech. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26345.
×

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.

Evelynn Hammonds
Harvard University
Committee Co-Chair
Valerie Taylor
Argonne National
Laboratory Committee Co-Chair
Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Transforming Trajectories for Women of Color in Tech. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26345.
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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Transforming Trajectories for Women of Color in Tech. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26345.
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Acknowledgments

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

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Transforming Trajectories for Women of Color in Tech. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26345.
×

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.

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Transforming Trajectories for Women of Color in Tech. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26345.
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Demand for tech professionals is expected to increase substantially over the next decade, and increasing the number of women of color in tech will be critical to building and maintaining a competitive workforce. Despite years of efforts to increase the diversity of the tech workforce, women of color have remained underrepresented, and the numbers of some groups of women of color have even declined. Even in cases where some groups of women of color may have higher levels of representation, data show that they still face significant systemic challenges in advancing to positions of leadership. Research evidence suggests that structural and social barriers in tech education, the tech workforce, and in venture capital investment disproportionately and negatively affect women of color.

Transforming Trajectories for Women of Color in Tech uses current research as well as information obtained through four public information-gathering workshops to provide recommendations to a broad set of stakeholders within the tech ecosystem for increasing recruitment, retention, and advancement of women of color. This report identifies gaps in existing research that obscure the nature of challenges faced by women of color in tech, addresses systemic issues that negatively affect outcomes for women of color in tech, and provides guidance for transforming existing systems and implementing evidence-based policies and practices to increase the success of women of color in tech.

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