Student Report from Black Women in Computing Conference

The inaugural Black Women in Computing Conference (BWIC) was held on January 6-8, 2017 at Howard University in Washington D.C. The theme of the conference was, “Honoring our past, celebrating our present, and looking into our future.” BWIC provided a venue to discuss, advance, and celebrate the intersectionality of race and gender in computing. The conference committee had the goals of catalyzing community between black women in computing, nurturing personal and professional growth, and discussing salient themes facing the group in society. Speakers ranged from North Carolina State’s Dr. Fay Cobb Payton, to White House representative Lisa Gelobter, to image activist Michaela angela Davis.

Karina Liles, a PhD candidate in computer science, and De’Aira Bryant, an undergraduate senior in computer science, attended the conference on behalf of the University of South Carolina’s College of Engineering and Computing. Liles is a graduate student advisor for the Minorities in Computing at USC student group and Bryant is the current president of the group.

"We discussed pivotal issues such as intersectionality, tokenism, and imposter syndrome—many of which I didn’t realize were issues facing the community, but rather just the way life worked for black women in computing. The open and enlightening conversations are ones that I still reflect upon today. For example, I learned that self-care and wellness are just as important as work deadlines. It’s not always worth, “getting degreed to get diabetes and die.

The community of women were extremely honest and inspiring in their experiences. I marveled at the presence of women who looked like me that had taken similar life paths—and had been successful. I am extremely grateful to the department for allowing me to experience this historical conference and gain so much from it. As I look to complete my final semester of undergrad at USC, I could not have asked for a better way to start it."

–De’Aira Bryant