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Black women are breaking barriers in the realm of STEM. According to WFLA, Dr. Shamaria Engram recently made history at the University of South Florida by becoming the first Black woman to graduate with a doctorate in Computer Science and Engineering.

Throughout her journey, Dr. Engram rarely saw herself reflected in the STEM space; but she used the lack of representation as fuel to change the narrative surrounding racial and gender diversity in computer science and engineering. When she attended the HBCU Bethune-Cookman University, she got the opportunity to learn alongside students who looked like her.

When she started her doctoral journey at USF, she noticed the underrepresentation again as the only Black woman in the program. “You kind of have to put on this face because you don’t want someone to look at you differently. You want them to consider you as smart as everyone else in the room,” she said in a statement, according to the news outlet. “That motivated me to keep on pushing. I can’t be the first one and stop. The PhD is hard and with me being the only Black woman in this department, you don’t have a lot of people to talk to about your research that get you culturally.” She is furthering her career at MIT Lincoln Laboratory and hopes to use her journey to empower other Black women and girls to launch careers in STEM.

Examples of excellence, like the historic milestone made by Dr. Engram, are instrumental in changing the status quo surrounding diversity in computer science and engineering. According to a study released by Catalyst, a mere 2.9 percent of Black women earned bachelor’s degrees across all STEM fields and Black women account for 2.5 percent of the science and engineering workforce in the United States.

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