The Grio's story about the University of Michigan bestowing its first set of doctoral robes on a black female computer scientist calls attention to a 2010-2011 survey of 1,400 people pursuing a doctoral degree in computer science. The results? Less than a quarter of them were women, and only 16 people were African-American.

1.2%
of computer-science
doctoral students
are black.


The Michigan graduate, Kyla McMullen, 29, attributes the low number to the lack of role models. Said the Washington, D.C., native: "Typically when  you think of someone who is in computer science, you think of a person who is a geek — with pocket protectors, suspenders, and highwater pants....  African-American women often don't think, "˜OK, I wanna be that [nerd].' "

McMullen graduated in the spring and is now an assistant professor at Clemson University, focusing on auditory computer interfaces.

This article is part of our Next America: Higher Education project, which is supported by grants from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Lumina Foundation.

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