Amid a global pandemic and upheaval across the United States, Jasmine Bowers has made history to become the first Black person to earn a doctorate in Computer Science from the University of Florida. The computer science doctoral program, which was created in the last decade, has the highest number of Black women faculty among computer science departments.
She joined the ranks of historic Black women in STEM like Mary Jackson, NASA’s first Black female engineer, and Dr. Patrica Bath, the innovative ophthalmologist who became the first Black woman to receive a medical patent for her invention that created a more precise cataract surgery.
She credits her mother, whom she dubbed the smartest woman she knows, for getting her to this point.
“The seed of motivation was planted at a young age when my mother taught me how to use Excel to record my ‘wish list.’ I grew up in a household where I was encouraged to embrace technology,” Bowers said in an exclusive interview with BOTWC. “I also had the freedom to utilize technologies that included computers and other equipment that my mother, an [self-taught] engineer, had.”
Black women earned 24 percent of doctorates in STEM in 2016, according to a report by the National Science Foundation that came out March of 2019, yet in the same study showed that a paltry 5 percent of executive-level roles were given to Back people regardless of gender. This lack of representation and support in the workplace has kept Black people from staying interested in STEM past grade school.
Bowers, who doubled major in Math and Computer Science at Fort Valley State University before receiving her masters at North Carolina A&T, credits the support from teachers, mentors and friends throughout her education for pushing her and she wants to give back to the next generation.
“The Ph.D. was and is the pinnacle of the seed planted years ago, deposits from teachers, internship experiences, amazing mentors, a supportive Ph.D. advisor, and the push from my mother who is and will always be behind me reminding me, ‘you can do this,'” Bowers said. “I will be moving to a new state and starting my career as an engineer where I get to put into practice all of my studies. I will continue to give back and encourage young girls to explore STEM.”