CEWiT Introduces a Student Interest Group for Black Women in Tech

By Ellen Glover

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

CEWiT welcomes its latest student interest group: Black Women in Technology (B-WiT), a multidisciplinary organization dedicated to both empowering and promoting the success of Black women in technology and related fields at Indiana University.

“We are here to promote the success of Black women in their academic careers,” says Dr. Kerrie Wilkins-Yel, an assistant professor here at IU who is also acting as the group’s advisor. “We want women to know they have a community, a place that is advancing Black women in STEM.”

BWiT is currently led by three interns – Sammy Dube, A'Niyah Birdsong and Tia Donaldson – who work together to achieve those goals and plan the direction they want B-WiT to go in. So far, the organization, in conjunction with both CEWiT and the Neal-Marshal Black Culture Center, hosted a viewing party of the newly released film “Hidden Figures” on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. 

Pictured from right to left are Faculty Advisor Kerrie Wilkens-Yel,
Intern Tia Donaldson, Lead Intern Sammy Dube,
and Intern A'Niyah Birdsong
(Photo Credit: Ellen Glover)

The concept of a program dedicated to helping women of color has been a long time coming at CEWiT. However, B-WiT was born at an inaugural dinner for Black women in STEM held last semester. Among other things, the event was meant to determine what the university could do to address the needs of this minority group.

“After that dinner we looked at what people said they wanted to see,” says Sammy Dube, a junior studying informatics and BWiT’s Lead Intern. “We now hope to provide professional networking, role models, a strong community, support and guidance.”

Consistent with the BWiT team members, Michelle-Bartley-Taylor, CEWiT’s Assistant Director for Student Engagement, plans on B-WiT and its programming to provide support and guidance to its members. “Black women are even more aggressively underrepresented in tech than women as a whole,” says Bartley-Taylor. “There are unique needs for Black women in this field and we recognize and value that. We want to see all women succeed in this field.”

B-WiT isn’t just hoping to have an impact on the Black women in technology here on IU’s campus. “One of our goals is to go to high schools and speak and encourage young Black women to pursue this field,” says A'Niyah Birdsong, a senior on the bio-premed track. “We would like to do outreach at schools in Indy and show that science is an option for minority women, too. We want to knock down some barriers.”

Tia Donaldson, a sophomore studying informatics, hopes to see B-WiT’s mission to knock down those barriers succeed beyond the borders of Indiana as well. “I want to help support and empower Black women in technology on IU’s campus and then take it nationally and even internationally,” says Donaldson.

Overall, a group like B-WiT could be beneficial, not just for the community it is advocating for but also for the university. “We now have a space that can reach students in all fields,” says Wilkins-Yel. “To have a space focused on women of color and providing them with a point of support is a huge bonus.”