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African-American women in computer science

Black women were among early pioneers in computing in the United States. Generally they were hired as mathematicians to do technical computing needed to support aeronautical and other research. They included such women as Katherine G. Johnson, who had a career of decades at NASA.[1] Among her projects was calculating the flight path for the United States first mission into space in 1961. She is credited as co-author of 26 scientific papers. The practice in 1960 was to list only the head of the division as author. The crediting of Johnson as an author in a peer-reviewed NASA report is significant Black women were also among the ENIAC programmers [2] who programmed the first digital computer for the US Army. Their stories have not been documented. Given the dearth of information regarding the contributions of women in early computer science, it is likely that other Black women have made significant contributions to computer science and society.[3]

The Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) was founded in 1947, but computer science developed later as an academic field. In 1969 Clarence Skip Ellis became the first Black to earn a doctorate degree in Computer Science. Ten years later the first Black woman earned a doctorate in Computer Science. One of the first women to have earned a doctorate degree in Computer Science was Marsha R. Williams [4] at Vanderbilt University in 1982.

In the mid-1980s, the representation of women in Computer Science peaked at approximately 40%.[5] The decline in the representation of women has been attributed by some analysts to the increased marketing of personal computers and video games to boys. There has been a decline in women of different races overall in computing in the United States; the representation of Black women in the field has continued to be lower than that of white female peers. For example, in 1985 when the number of women in computing was at a high, 77% of the related degrees were earned by White women while fewer than 8% were earned by Black women.[6] In 2002,

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