Jakita Thomas honored for research on black women in computing

By Chris Anthony

Published: May 16, 2018 4:00:00 PM

Black women are an underrepresented group in the field of computing. Black women are an underrepresented group in the field of computing.

Jakita Thomas, Philpott-WestPoint Stevens Associate Professor in the Department of Computer Science and Software Engineering, was awarded a Best Paper Award at the 2018 conference for Research on Equity and Sustained Participation in Computing, Engineering and Technology.

The paper, “Speaking Truth to Power: Exploring the Intersectional Experiences of Black Women in Computing,” examined the experiences of 11 black women in computer science.

Thomas’ research found that these women experienced discrimination, unrealistic expectations from others, isolation, sexism and racism, but despite these obstacles, they stayed committed to the computing discipline. These women continued in the field by remaining true to their personal and professional goals, having effective mentors and inspiration from their fathers, according to the study.

“Improving diversity in computing is an important initiative right now,” said Hari Narayanan, chair of the Department of Computer Science and Software Engineering. “Dr. Thomas’ research in this area is crucial because it examines why black women persist in computing, rather than why they leave the field. Her work will help identify ways to encourage and retain talented students from underrepresented groups in our field.”

Co-authors of the paper include Nicole Joseph of Vanderbilt University, Arian Williams of Mississippi Valley State University, Jamika Burge of Capital One and Auburn computer science graduate Chan’tel Crum.

Thomas joined the Auburn Engineering faculty in 2016 after a six-year stint on the faculty at Spelman College. She began her career as a researcher at IBM Research – Almaden. Thomas is also the recipient of a National Science Foundation CAREER Award and a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers.

Media Contact: Chris Anthony, chris.anthony@auburn.edu, 334.844.3447

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