Celebrate Women’s History Month – Introducing Frieda McAlear, LPFI’s Research Associate

On this final day of Women’s History Month, we celebrate our very own Frieda McAlear, LPFI’s new Research Associate. Frieda is Native Alaskan (Inupiaq) and is the first woman in her family to obtain a degree in Computer Science. During her time in college, Frieda made it her personal mission to encourage other women of color who were unsure about pursuing STEM career pathways. More than a decade later, she continues to be a role model and mentor for young women of color pursuing STEM. Frieda believes that “resilience is a big part of my cultural identity as a Native Alaskan, which may be partly why I chose to study subjects that were very challenging to me. Coding taught me to break apart complex problems, be patient in correcting mistakes, work at scale from the beginning of a project, and embrace the challenges of detailed analysis.”

Frieda uses her math, science and computational training as a Research Associate for LPFI, reporting that:

  • While African-Americans and Latinos make up 59% of the high-school aged population in California, combined they comprise just 11% of Advanced Placement Computer Science exam takers in California (College Board, 2014).
  • Females represent only 20% of all California Advanced Placement Computer Science exam takers (College Board, 2013).
  • African Americans and Latinos comprise just 9% of the entire U.S. science and engineering workforce; African American and Latina women combined represent just 2% of the science and engineering workforce (NSF, 2006, 2012).

Our 2014 SMASH evaluation demonstrates that after completing SMASH Academy Computer Science courses, female SMASH scholars (100% of whom are from backgrounds underrepresented in STEM) were:

  • Less likely to believe that Computer Science was “too hard” for them.
  • Much more likely to plan to take rigorous Computer Science courses in the future, such as Advanced Placement Computer Science.
  • On average, more likely to believe that they are capable of doing well in computer science.
  • More likely to feel as though they belong in STEM.

We welcome Frieda to LPFI and recognize her among the growing number of female role models in STEM.

Thank you to our supporters for joining Frieda and LPFI in our mission to reverse the significant underrepresentation students of color and women in STEM continue to face.



Frieda McAlear
Research Associate
Level Playing Field Institute