Connecting with Computing: Exploring Black/African-American Women's People-Centered Interests in Computing Sciences

Document Type

Conference Paper

Publication Title

2020 Research on Equity and Sustained Participation in Engineering, Computing, and Technology (RESPECT)

Publication Date


Date Added



Promoting inclusivity and increasing the representation of women in the field of Computer Science (CS) has been an ongoing initiative. When it comes to Black/African-American (AA) women, their underrepresentation in CS is even more disproportionate. CS is a field that is ever-evolving, but its ability to be perceived as a field that is inclusive-to-all has been a continuing challenge. One notable reason is that CS comes off as a field that lacks altruism by nature. For instance, literature shows that women tend to gravitate away from CS for fields that align more with their interests for helping others. However, CS in nature can create spaces that provide platforms for women, especially women of color, to express their personal interests. This article addresses such potential in CS by discussing a two-year study that was conducted on 51 Black/African-American female students who were enrolled in an introductory and intermediate CS course at a historically black university in the mid-Atlantic United States. In these respective courses, the assigned final project allowed students to choose their own original projects while showcasing their learned computational knowledge and developed programming competencies. The objective of this study was to observe the types of project topics that these 51 women, in particular, chose for their assigned final projects in these respective courses. The results revealed that 92% of the topics chosen tended to be ones that were altruistic in nature. Likewise, this study reflects potential support for the ability of CS to exhibit inclusive spaces for such interests.






Technology, Economic Advancement


Computer Sciences