PARTNERS IN ACTION

WOMEN

in

STEM

First-ever Black Women in Computing Conference Welcomed Nearly 100

BY LINDSAY PENTICUFF More than 90 women from all over the country attended the Inaugural Black Women in Computing Conference held Jan. 6-8 in Washington, D.C. at Howard University. Presented by the Research Coalition of Black Women and Girls in Computing, the first-ever conference goals were three-fold: validate and delve deeper into the strategies and plan of action as defined by participants in the inaugural Black Women in Computing workshop held in January 2016; cross-reference those findings with any new or unexplored intersectional experiences of black women in computer science; and lay the foundation for a larger, international conference for black women in computing across all sectors, including plans for dissemination and funding sustainability. Dr. Danielle Cummings, the community chair for Black Women in Computing, said the conference was a result of a workshop held last January in which participants formulated key issues, concerns and strategies for each of seven themes that would be further discussed during the 2017 event. Themes for the conference included: After the Inaugural Black Women in Computing Conference wrapped up Sunday, Jan. 8, a group of about 25 participants headed to a local movie theater to watch ?Hidden Figures.? The outing was sponsored by the Anita Borg Institute. ? Linking black women in computing to the bottom line for accountability ? Developing key influencers and thought leaders ? Increasing cultural and educational support for black women in computing ? Leadership development ? Lack of collective research about black women in computing ? Illuminating trials and triumphs of black women in computing ? Branding and communication ?The main reason for the formation of the Research Coalition for Black Women and Girls in Computing is because there is a lack of collective research about black women in computing,? said Cummings, an analyst and computer systems researcher for the U.S. Department of Defense. ?Most of the research out there doesn?t really have our voice, so the group of women who started this coalition and sought out to develop this conference, they did it out of a need to say, ?We need those voices and we need them to be documented.? That was their reason to reach out to the Black Women in Computing community and say, ?We have this forum where you can come and discuss an action plan related to these themes that we think are important to you.?? The inaugural event included receptions for networking, break-out discussions and keynote speeches by a group of inspiring speakers, said Cummings. Presenters included Michaela Angela Davis, an image activist who is the creator of MAD Free: Liberating Conversations About Image Beauty and Power, a multi-platform conversation project with revolutionary women; Lisa Gelobter, chief digital service officer with the U.S. Depart- 56 Diversity in Action | MARCH/APRIL 2017

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