Women of Color in Emerging Technology: Breaking Down the Barriers

Elodie Billionniere, Farzana Rahman

Research output: Contribution to journalConference Articlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


These past two years, COVID-19 has added to the industry's gender and ethnic underrepresentation issues. The pandemic's reallocation shock has caused more than 31 million Americans to rely on unemployment. A recent study estimates 32-42% of these layoffs will become permanent, which will be felt more acutely by minority communities. As the pandemic continues to sharpen inequalities in America's economy, nearly eight times the number of women left the workforce compared to men last year. These rates were higher for women of color. To broaden participation and fill a growing need for skilled workers in computing, it is important to consider innovative pathways that delve into untapped pools of talent for training and recruitment. It has been estimated that by 2030, approximately one-third to a half of employees may desire new occupations or may need to either reskill or upskill. Some niches within the computing fields, like emerging technologies (EmTech) (e.g., cloud computing, data science, cybersecurity, and artificial intelligence), are expected to grow job opportunities more quickly than others. The demands of these jobs can only be fulfilled by creating opportunities for one of the largest untapped Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) talent pools: adult women. We conducted a series of four virtual focus groups with 18 adult women of color in total, specifically Hispanic and Black women. These women are (re-)entering the computing field through emerging technology pathways. The goal of the focus group interviews was to identify the reasons for their career and/or educational breaks, barriers they faced and/or are currently facing in their studies and/or employment, and suggested strategies and actions to mitigate these barriers. In this paper, we present the details of the focus group findings summarized based on the qualitative study. The proposed mitigations voiced by the participants can be used as a baseline to build or increase the pipeline in the computing field by providing a suitable and flexible learning environment for returning and adult women.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
StatePublished - Aug 23 2022
Event129th ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition: Excellence Through Diversity, ASEE 2022 - Minneapolis, United States
Duration: Jun 26 2022Jun 29 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Engineering


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