Thoughts: Diversity in Computer Science (Laughable?)

by Joy on January 2, 2010

In response to an essay prompt for the Google FUSE program, I reached a personal epiphany. For the first time, I realized the need for diversity in Computer Science.

Excerpt – I realized for the field to stay vibrant and healthy, it needed a diverse pool that could adapt to new challenges, provide interesting variations, and avoid the dangers of homogeneity.

I don’t believe supporting diversity means isolating others or lowering standards. Instead, I support diversity in the sense that no one should be made to feel they cannot pursue their passions or contribute to a body of knowledge. No one should be denied the opportunity to rise to the occasion.

Diversity Matters...But Why?

Above all, I support excellence, and I look forward to championing excellence regardless of gender, race, class, religion, and any thing else we use to differentiate among ourselves.

Diversity in Computer Science

Until recently, I undervalued the importance of diversity in computer science. I dismissed the significance of connecting those underrepresented in the field with one another. I thought it was merely enough to pursue my interests and connect with my passionate peers and mentors regardless of their backgrounds.

For most of my life, apart for two years in Ghana, my country of origin, I have been the face of the underrepresented minority in many of my communities. I have broken down stereotypes and established myself through the merit of my accomplishments and my willingness to define my own path.

To me, computer science had no face, but rather was a non entity composed of the work of many individuals who each contributed code, clarifications, concepts, or constructs, but nothing else.

Not until I came to college did I begin to realize that the backgrounds of computer scientists influenced their contributions which were not limited to the four C’s mentioned above. I realized for the field to stay vibrant and healthy, it needed a diverse pool that could adapt to new challenges, provide interesting variations, and avoid the danger of homogeneity.

As I got familiar with the Computing Department, it was inspiring for me to see professors and researchers who looked like me, and were highly regarded for their contributions to not only Georgia Tech, but the larger world. I almost didn’t want to admit that I identified with them because I felt that they understood the challenges I faced. I realized this didn’t diminish my connections with other mentors who have given me so much love and support.

One of these professors, took me under his wing,and in April he arranged for the College of Computing to pay for me and nine other students to attend, the Richard Tapia – Diversity in Computer Science Conference. The conference was not only inspiring, but it also made me realize that I need to play my part in bridging the digital divide.

Tapia challenged me to make a conscious effort to connect with other underrepresented minorities not to the exclusion of others but to edify ourselves so we have the strength to continue our endeavors, to inspire each other as to provide encouragement and validation for individual aspirations, and to ultimately connect with each other for the betterment of all.

I was recently elected as the Vice President of Minorities in the College of Computing, and I am excited to see that Google has seen what I have recently discovered: diversity matters.

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