Black Feminist Epistemologies: Building a Sisterhood in Computing
Effective Years: 2023-2028
The Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) program is a National Science Foundation-wide activity that offers awards in support of early-career faculty who have the potential to serve as academic role models in research and education, to lead advances in the mission of their department or organization, and to build a foundation for a lifetime of leadership in integrating education and research. This CAREER project explores the postsecondary experiences of Black women currently enrolled in undergraduate computing degree programs to draw attention to racial and gender inequalities that Black women in computing endure. Despite efforts to intentionally increase the recruitment and retention of women in the field of computing, Black women remain acutely underrepresented. Gender-focused efforts have fallen short of increasing the number of Black women in computing because they fail to acknowledge how the intersection of race and gender shape Black women’s experiences, including their retention in the field of computing.
Recent studies reveal that Black women enrolled in undergraduate computing degree programs at predominantly white institutions (PWIs) attest to the lack of support, mentorship, and resources that impede their ability to complete their degrees. Some choose to withdraw from these programs. Such results suggest that additional research explicitly focused on Black women enrolled at PWIs is essential for addressing the underrepresentation of Black women in computing. It aligns with the recent National Academies of Science Report, which recommends examining the experiences of women of color at critical junctures throughout their career. This project leverages Black feminist epistemologies and Black women’s ways of knowing, as critical frameworks of this research. The project utilizes the concept of sister circles to create counter spaces to build community and resist structural oppression. Sister circles amplify the voices of Black women as they engage in intimate conversations about experiences navigating their respective computing degree programs students. Additionally, Black women undergraduate computing students will share information about how structural oppression operates in the context of computing education and devise strategies to resist structural oppression. Results from this research will generate empirical, in-depth knowledge of Black women undergraduate students’ experiences in computing degree programs at PWIs, identifying critical inflection points during their progression that predict Black women’s ability to persist in computing. Additionally, a sister circle toolkit will be developed that enables PWIs to build an effective community of support for Black women in computing. This community includes access to near-peer mentors, resources, and information about career development opportunities as a countermeasure to the oppression and trauma that Black women experience in higher education. This project is funded by the Directorate for STEM Education Core Research (ECR) program, which supports work that advances fundamental research on STEM learning and learning environments, broadening participation in STEM, and STEM workforce development.
This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.