It’s never too late to follow your dream (although you may have to make a few adjustments)

This month’s blog post is from Elizabeth Buie, who gave recently a talk at the ACM’s CHI 2019 Diversity and Inclusion Lunch.  In this post, Elizabeth shares her experiences as an older PhD student researching on HCI at the Northumbria University.This post was originally published at:

“Some years ago I moved across the Atlantic to do a PhD. That’s not so unusual, really — but I was 60 years old, and widowed. I definitely wasn’t your typical graduate student.

My age and circumstances, it turned out, brought me both challenges and advantages.

Let me begin with my three main challenges.

Health. Although I started out in fairly good health, while doing my PhD I developed some new issues. The biggest of these was hip arthritis, for which I made many healthcare visits, used walking aids for more than a year, and eventually had hip replacement surgery. These new health issues reduced my stamina and took time away from my research.

Isolation. I was much older than most of my fellow PhD students (most were less than half my age), and I missed having people I could just hang out with. I suspect that my isolation was due partly to my own sense of not quite fitting in, but I still felt sad about it.

Competition. I liked the university environment and considered trying to stay in it. I realized, however, that to do that I would have to compete with 25-year-olds who had 40-year careers ahead of them. They had more energy than I did and were willing to take lower salaries. I didn’t see myself doing well in that race.

I also found three clear advantages to pursuing this dream later in life.

Finances. I first considered doing a PhD just after I discovered human-computer interaction (HCI) in 1982, at what I’ve come to call the “proto-CHI” conference (Gaithersburg was just up the road from me), but by then I was used to having a full-time salary and I would have had to sacrifice either income or free time. Thirty years later, I had enough resources that I could afford to be a full-time student again.

Experience. To my PhD studies I brought 35 years of practice in user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) consulting and 30 years of involvement with the HCI community. I had co-edited a book on user experience in government systems, attended roughly half of the CHI conferences, reviewed CHI submissions, and served on CHI program committees. I already knew a great many people and some of the ropes.

Topic freedom. I wasn’t aiming to launch an academic career, so I didn’t have to concern myself overmuch with how well my research topic would fly in the larger academic community. Although a few other people were conducting research on related topics in the field (the use of technology in spirituality and religion), I wanted to study subjective transcendent experiences supported by technology. It was definitely not a mainstream topic in HCI circles, and I expected to be thought a little weird. But I was OK with that, as I wasn’t depending on topic acceptance for my professional future. Besides, it was such a niche topic that there was plenty of room for contributing to knowledge.

To respond to my challenges, I had to make a number of adjustments.

Schedule. My health issues caused me to need two extensions to my deadline. Instead of Nothumbria University’s “standard duration” of three years to complete the research and submit the thesis, I took four and a half. On the other hand, I did get it done.

Career path. Abandoning my thoughts of an academic life, I settled back into being a research-savvy practitioner. Adding a PhD to decades in industry worked for me, and I’m enjoying applying my research knowledge to my practice.

Research dreams. I’m still struggling with my hopes for continuing my research. Although I’ve presented in many CHI venues and have given full papers at other SIGCHI conferences, I have yet to submit a full paper to CHI. Unfortunately, I’m no longer up to travelling much farther than the US east coast, so I may have to rethink that goal, or maybe just postpone it.

From time to time I hear someone wondering if, at 55 or even at 50, they’re too old to start a PhD. I am here as proof that even 60 and beyond is not too old. You’ll probably have to make an adjustment or two to your approach, your plans, and your expectations, But it’s never too late to follow a dream.”

Meet the Amazing womENcourage Local Organizers

Tiziana Catarci and Paola Velardi

This month we interviewed the local organizers of the womENcourage 2019, Prof Tiziana Catarci and Prof Paola Velardi from La Sapienza University. Their radiating energy and creativity are captured in these fascinating portraits by Gérald Bruneaux courtesy of Fondazione Bracco.

Tiziana Catarci graduated from Electronic Engineering in February 1987 at the University of Rome La Sapienza, where she received her PhD in Computer Science in October 1992. Since November 2000 she is a Full Professor of Information Processing Systems. For many years Prof Catarci has been actively involved in gender issues in the STEM subjects and the spreading the STEM culture among girls. For these activities, she won an award from Levi Montalcini Association in 2017.

Paola Velardi is a Full Professor in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Roma “La Sapienza”. She received her “Laurea” Degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Roma “La Sapienza” in 1978. Her research interests include Natural Language Processing, Machine Learning, and the Semantic Web. With her inspirational work, Prof Velardi aims to debunk the myth that computer science is a man-oriented and “inflexible” discipline.

Here is what they told us.

Why is the conference important to you?

Despite the various initiatives undertaken in recent years, the results in terms of attractiveness of IT for girls are still disappointing. It is necessary to do more, change the mentality, make people feel that IT is cool and it is not for the geeky few but it is the future. ACM womENcourage is in this direction and will be a terrific event.

Additionally, the motivation for this conference, to attract more girls in computer science and to support women who choose a career in the IT sector, is a very important one. For many years both of us have been involved in gender projects, dedicated to encouraging more girls to undertake studies in computer science. As stated in many studies, if the number of women who embark on a career in computer science could be equal to that of men, it would create an annual EUR 16 billion GDP boost for the European economy. Moreover, information technology is revolutionizing all technological, scientific and social fields: it is not conceivable that women exclude themselves from this revolution. Generally speaking, ICT has a transformative power and could act as catalyst for women empowerment.

What do you enjoy most about your work?

We are scientists, we like studying, facing new problems (and possibly contribute to solve them), we like the interdisciplinary nature of our field of study, being able to collaborate with other scientists, companies, policy makers.  We aim at giving our small contribution for a better world. We love being surrounded by young people, students, graduate students, researchers, and to disseminate the passion for science, research and advancement among them. Of course, we would much prefer more gender balanced classes and team work.

We also like new challenges, and being local organizers of ACM womENcourage 2019 is definitively an interesting one.

What would you want the participants to learn from your keynote speech or the conference in general?

The conference has a rich program with many different events, and any of these events can teach something. By participating in the hackathon, girls will learn teamwork, creating new concepts and ideas, networking and competition. The career fair will offer the opportunity to meet companies and train at job interviews. Presenting a poster will train them to present their work in a synthetic and effective way. Keynotes and interdisciplinary research tracks (a new feature introduced this year) will give the opportunity to be inspired by prominent speakers and be introduced to new interdisciplinary research areas. As a general return, we would like girls to bring with them the message that IT is a formidable tool for solving problems and contributing to the progress of humanity, as well as something fun and terribly cool.


Youthtopia, Heraklion, Greece: Why aren’t there more women in science?

Youthtopia” is a newly established non-formal youth group in the city of Heraklion, Crete, Greece. Its members are experienced in Erasmus+ Projects, youth exchange and training. Youthtopia aims to activate youngsters in the local community and develop their soft skills through volunteering, “learning by doing”, organising events and participating in youth activities. Through their actions, Youthtopia aims to help people grow by taking the initiative in their lives, searching, learning and developing skills applicable to every aspect of their lives.

Through Erasmus+ projects Youthtopia enhances international cooperation, broadens the horizons, strengthens the collaboration among organisations with the same vision as well as cultivating friendship among different nations, understanding people’s differences, minimising discrimination and supporting people in discovering things about themselves and life through non-formal education. Members have organised events to activate the local society in Heraklion, mostly concerning the young people of the city, such as a scientific treasure hunt, lectures with scientists and a summer camp.

On the ninth of February, Youthtopia organised, with great success, the ‘’Women in Science” event in the city of Heraklion. The four female speakers and one male speaker, all of them distinguished professors and researchers, gave fascinating lectures about the theme of ”Women in Science”, each one presenting their unique points of view.

The speakers were:

  • Prof. Maria Vamvakaki (Professor at the Department of Materials and Science of University of Crete)
  • Prof. Panayiota Poirazi (Research Director at the Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, in Foundation for Research and Technology-Hellas)
  • Dr Evangelia Dormousi (Marie Curie Researcher at Foundation for Research and Technology – Hellas)
  • Prof. Panagiota Fatourou (Department of Computer Science, University of Crete and Institute of Computer Science, Foundation for Research and Technology – Hellas)
  • Prof. Emeritus Eleftherios Economou, (Department of Physics, University of Crete, and Institute of Electronic Structure and Laser, Foundation for Research and Technology – Hellas).

The female speakers referred to the low percentage of women involved in Science and Research, which is lower than 30% in Europe, while in Greece, it is slightly higher at about 38%. They attributed this issue to the many responsibilities a woman faces when she creates a family and the difficulty in balancing career and family life. This becomes even more difficult when a woman works in sciences, taking into account the long hours needed to be spent every day on the job. However, if there is an equal distribution of duties and responsibilities among all the members of a family, it can really help a woman to maintain the right balance. Moreover, Greek society should provide women who have families with more prerogatives to facilitate their work.

Referring to specific examples, speakers also discussed how gender discrimination exists in Academia and in science-related jobs. Women typically face extraordinary obstacles in their way to a higher position. However, discrimination of all sort still exists today, that both women and men face alike, like discrimination against people with disabilities.

The event was attended by 200 people and during the break science experiments were conducted by the group “Science behind”.

ACM Ukrainian Chapter: 3rd Celebration of Women in Computing.

The third ACM Ukrainian Celebration of Women in Computing took place from December 1st to the 7th 2018 with various activities taking place during the week.  The Celebration began with a STEM Weekend for girls which included the Hour of Code and other coding and mentoring opportunities for the girls.   

The STEM Weekend and Hour of Code was led by the students from Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv, Faculty of Computer Science and Cybernetics Department. For a long time, the faculty and students wanted to hold a mini-course for girls in #STEM, because we believe that teaching STEM topics early increases interest in children. And now it happened as a part of the Ukrainian ACM Women in Computing Celebration!!! Together we solved interesting mathematical and logical tasks, we learned to code our Minecraft from Code.org as a part of the worldwide initiative  #hourofcode, we visited the Museum of popular science and participated in many other exciting things! Our success is exemplified in the WOW-feedback – that we are still receiving. We are very glad that the event was successful.



#STEM Weekend with Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv students and Faculty teaching the girls coding.

The WIC also included events later during the week: chat sessions (on-site as well as remote) with successful women in IT who shared their career and personal experiences thus motivating the participants.    

Remote talk and mentoring session

Also, a student project contest was held where students took an idea from start to prototype.

Attendees enjoyed a visit to the Museum of Popular Science.

The theme of the conference was “Yes You Can!” and everyone left inspired and motivated!

All the participants were motivated to follow their big dreams and the lifehacks on how to reach the goals while supporting the work-life balance.
Both female and male participants left the Celebration with feelings of the positive impact from our prominent speakers – girls and women.
Let’s celebrate the women encouragement and support them in IT!
We are thankful for ACM-W, Microsoft and other partners for the support! Also thanks to the members of Hackathon Expert Group, who helped ACM Ukrainian Chapter to hold this excellent course!!!
We hope this event will have a significant impact on our both our students and the children who participated!  

Debate “Education, Research & Innovation: developing concrete synergies”

From ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt in the 2nd millennium BC, geometry has always been a major source of inspiration to define and bond key concepts of everyday life. In this report, I am not going to talk about the history of geometry or discuss the questions of shape, size, or the properties of space. Rather, I am going to highlight a specific shape and discuss its characteristics that define the topic of interest of this report. So, from the world of geometry, a special focus is made on the triangle shape as it can represent and link three main concepts of everyday life, namely “education”, “research” and “innovation” via its three corners, leading to the “knowledge triangle” concept which is the core of this report

My name is Zaineb Chelly Dagdia, and I am a Marie Sklodowska Curie (MSC) Research Fellow (IF) at Aberystwyth University, UK. I act as an MSC ambassador, serve as a role model to young scientists and I am enthusiastically involved in several activities for encouraging scientists to excel in their career and to promote gender equality. As an MSC ambassador, I was delighted to be invited as a panellist for the debate “Education, Research & Innovation: developing concrete synergies” which was held at the Parlamentarium in Brussels, Belgium on the 26th of September 2018. It was a pleasure for me to be on board together with the co-panellists (1) Sophie Beernaerts, Head of unit MSCA, (2) Lieve Wierinck, Member of the European Parliament, (3) Rahul Bansal, Deputy Director of Education, European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) Climate Knowledge and Innovation Community (KIC), (4) Janet Metcalfe, Head of Vitae, and (5) Gareth O’Neill, President EURODOC.

Debate (1)_ResizedThe event welcomed a number of young visitors, members of the European Parliament, members of the European Commission, and researchers funded by the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA). The audience was greeted by Mr. Dimitrios Papadimoulis, Vice-President of the European Parliament, the panel discussion was opened by Mr. Tibor Navracsics, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, and the professional moderator Christophe Robeet facilitated the debate.

In this report, I will share with you my philosophy about how I see the knowledge triangle as well as my beliefs on how to keep this bond between the different triangle’s corners as much tied as possible to make a great impact on re-launching the economic growth, on creating new job opportunities, and to improve our society’s standard living.

First, let me share with you why the topic of the debate was very important for me. Actually, the topic speaks to me from its different angles, and this is based on the role I play in each of these three key context areas: Debate (6)resizededucation”, “research” and “innovation”: To begin with, from the institutional perspective, and as an associate professor, it is important for me to provide my students with the right skills, competence and mind-sets for the job market as well as for their personal lives. It is crucial to offer them a variety of courses that contains topics with real life relevance, and not simply theoretical knowledge. Today, theoretical knowledge is very easy to get, specifically with the easy access to all the needed resources via internet for instance. It is one of my responsibilities to ensure that the designed courses have this dynamic and multidisciplinary aspect to meet the needs of both students and society and improve skill-matching between companies and graduates. Indeed, with all what we live today as innovations and high technologies, and as the work of today is increasingly about applying knowledge, it is important for students to work in multidisciplinary groups and interact with different stakeholders via internships for instance. For master and doctoral students for example, it is critical that they conduct research within these multidisciplinary groups where the same topic is approached form different angles leading to a greater impact and a more solid basis for doctoral studies and greater benefit for the university in general. Therefore, I have to ensure training my students in all levels on the latest technologies in companies, and to foster an entrepreneurial spirit in them by offering specific courses such as management or business plan development courses, as well as by involving them in several activities such as the creation of spin-offs and academic start-ups, production of intellectual property rights, etc. They need the mind-set, skills and knowledge to generate creative ideas, and the entrepreneurial initiative to turn those ideas into actions. However, it is important to highlight that this is only feasible if the educational system is based on such philosophy.

Now as a researcher, it is very important for me to interact and communicate with non-academic partners to not only benefit from this transfer of knowledge but also to contribute to innovation. I will definitely learn from them how they handle their projects from a technical perspective, learn about their technologies and also their needs and encountered challenges when solving their technical issues. This will definitely enhance the quality of research in general, increase research potential, improve the competitiveness of research activities and create more career opportunities for researchers. Meanwhile, this also helps in bringing this know-how to my students making contributions to their future academic career. On the other hand, it is one of my duties to bring to industry the latest achievements in research, and apply my contributions in my domain of interest to help partners solve their issues. For example, as an MSC fellow, I had the opportunity to collaborate with epidemiologists at Hopital Hotel Dieu in Paris, France within two secondments planed in my MSC project. Today, epidemiologists are facing a large amount of data for cancer incidence prediction. This data can be called as big data which is characterized by its large volume, its variety such as images, texts, and videos, its velocity which is the speed of creating and getting data from different sources, and its veracity which is how trustful data is specifically when encountering missing data if one patient for instance did not fill all the required information in a form. So, it becomes crucial to help epidemiologists get valuable and meaningful information from big data for cancer incidence prediction. Using traditional and standard techniques cannot be a solution as they are enable to deal with neither the big data’s computational requirements nor with their characteristics. Therefore, I applied novel techniques that I developed in my MSC project which is in the form of an optimized big data mining framework [Link]. My innovative idea was to hybridize different key disciplines from mathematics, big data and randomized search heuristics for optimization to handle big data from different perspectives and this is based on the inter-disciplinary nature of my project. Our results were very promising as our methods could offer insights into the selected risk factors, speed up the learning process, ensure the performance of the cancer prediction model and help epidemiologists make better decisions.

From an industrial perspective, it is important to communicate the findings that we obtained with the general public as this will promote the visibility of the company. So, we have communicated the fruit of our collaboration in leading international conferences where we have interacted with some other interested parties. But still, it is important to mention that sometimes it is difficult to convince non-academic partners that you have the right tools that you want to apply to solve their issues. Sometimes, it is difficult for them to accept the change as they want you to use their traditional techniques because they have never heard about search heuristics for instance. I think this remains a challenge as companies should become more conscious of the interest of research for innovation and give us the chance to apply our knowledge and our new algorithms.

I definitely believe that we should focus on each of the three different key context areas, and give them an equal importance. For instance, the role of research is especially to produce more foresight knowledge to be used in education and in innovation. Based on that, teaching and learning get better understanding of competence needs. Definitely, education should not be treated as in input within the context of human resources. Similarly, innovation should not be confined to the bottom of the knowledge creation proves and to be considered as an output of education and research. There should be an equilibrium on the effort put to promote or focus on each of the three key context areas of the knowledge triangle. Hence, I obviously cannot see myself in a specific side of the knowledge triangle. As I previously mentioned, as an associate professor, I have to ensure that my students get both the right skills that meet companies needs and the most adequate doctoral program for instance to have an interdisciplinary philosophy. So, in this case, my role is to promote both corners: innovation and education. As a researcher, and via my trainings, internships and secondments, I contribute to industry innovations via the application of my research fields, and via the obtained promising results, I am involved in increasing its visibility in the competitive market. On the other hand, I share with my students the know-how I gained through my practices. So again here, I work on promoting both corners which are innovation and education.

At this point and based on the role I play on each of these three corners of the triangle, I would like to share with you my understanding of the knowledge triangle concept. I believe that the knowledge triangle presents a key concept highlighting the critical role that we all have in promoting education, research and innovation, and in allocating an equal importance to each of these three corners as they mutually interact and influence each other. I also believe that the knowledge triangle is about building this solid network to improve the quality of education, to promote better research with a national and international impact, and to build promising environments for innovations.

However, despite the efforts we are making to keep the bond tied, unfortunately there are still many problems that we notice that weaken the knowledge triangle impact. Among these, I mention the fragmented systems at the research and educational institutions, a weak entrepreneurial culture of our students, and a limited cooperation between higher education, research and business.

It is definitely crucial that all the actors of the knowledge triangle ranging from the higher education institutions, private companies, public research institutions to state authorities get all together engaged and involved to work together to solidify the knowledge triangle concept, and ensure its successful application to support the development of the economy and to improve our society’s standard living. For sure, there are several rooms for improvements that the various players from the EU, member states, institutions, and researchers can consider for a better application of the knowledge triangle.

For the member states for instance, they can work on a pedagogical reform where they can plan a variety of study models to provide flexible and personalized learning opportunities, improve specialties training programs, improve curricula, and make education more responsive to business and societal demands. They can also work on involving the private sector/industry in education. This will definitely help graduates be more in demand as they will have the right skills, and help them to be prepared for the needs of the dynamic business market.

For researchers, I believe that they should participate in the supervision of master projects and theses, and do their research in interdisciplinary labs and groups. This will give the researcher the chance to work in an interdisciplinary environment, have different kinds of feedbacks from other experts who see the researcher’s domain from a different angle, and learn how to work with researchers from different domains and who think differently.

From an institutional perspective, it would be of a great interest if they orient practical work and assignments to research questions, and plan career workshops/seminars to prepare students in all levels for their future employment search. It is also interesting to improve institutional practices via internationalization by encouraging mobility of students and staff for learning and teaching training activities, and by opening recruitment for international staff and students. This will definitely incentive the modernization of universities enabling to bring new expertise and having a new know-how philosophy. Another suggestion can be the possibility of merging some institutional departments as this can lower costs and increase efficiency as there will be a closer interaction between the departments. Hence, benefiting not only from this exchange of knowledge but also from the possibility to use the gained costs in improving research equipment for instance. Institutions should also work harder in developing student’s entrepreneurial, leadership and management skills to prepare them to their next professional career.

Now for the EU I suggest offering new incentive and funding structures by creating new funding opportunities for researchers from any nationality. This may significantly increase the quality of research. The policies of the EU should also promote the expansion of academic cultures beyond research excellence and teaching alone towards innovation and the – development of solutions for socioeconomic challenges. Adding to this, it would be interesting to increase the participation of young people in democratic life, especially in discussions with policy makers.

To conclude, I would like to say that this mutual co-operation between these three aspects of the knowledge triangle is fundamental as it helps universities improve the quality of research, develop relevant curricula and approaches to teaching and highlights their reputations signaling their high reputability and high quality. This leads to increase the university attractiveness for its future students, and increases funding opportunities as well. This can also help in shaping the social, demographic and cultural structures of a region that attracts international experts to the university and research institutes, creates new business and draws new international companies to the area, and hosts cultural activities. All this has a great impact on re-launching the economic growth, creates jobs, and improves society’s standard living. So, let us all work together to strengthen the knowledge triangle.

Zaineb Chelly Dagdia
Marie Sklodowska Curie Research Fellow
Aberystwyth University, United Kingdom
Website: https://sites.google.com/site/zeinebchelly/home

womENcourage 2018

“Brilliant experience, fun and inspiring” sums up the 5th ACM Celebration of Women in Computing womENcourage 2018, which took place at the Hotel Metropol Palace in Belgrade, Serbia, between 3-5 October.

womENcourage (womencourage.acm.org) is a flagship event organized annually by ACM Women Europe. By selecting a different location every year, womENcourage reaches women across Europe and brings them together for a unique and inspiring experience.

The success of womENcourage 2018 was confirmed by the survey taken by the participants, showing that 94% of attendees were “inspired and encouraged” by the keynote presentations, workshops, panels, posters and meeting accomplished women, their role models.

IMG_7380Participants came from 23 countries. They represented different professions, including academia, media, and multinational technology companies, and different age groups, with 57% participant between 17 and 30. Local participation was prominent with 29,3% attendees from Serbia, followed by the UK with 22,3% of attendees. The gender diversity was topped this year with 11.3% male attendees.

womENcourage presents a unique opportunity for women in computing to come together, share ideas, network and discuss challenges that they face during their career. The common sentiment and the value of womENcourage to the women professional community is summed by one of the attendees: “We need more of these activities to encourage women in [our respective countries] to take more initiative in engineering, IT and other technical areas of expertise”.

In contrast to many specialized professional events, womENcourage fosters exchange of experiences and information across computing disciplines and through networking, workshops, and collaborative activities, brings together women with diverse interests and backgrounds. As such, it entices women to support each other and work jointly towards empowering women to succeed in their pursuit of technical professions. womENcourage 2018 was dedicated to “Making our Future Together” with the intent to inspire all the attendees to take every opportunity to make a difference in enabling women to succeed..

womENcourage 2018 was made possible through generous support from Google, Facebook, SIGCHI, SIGOPS, Oracle Academy, IBM, Microsoft, Bloomberg, and Informatics Europe. It was also sponsored by ACM-W and Belgrade Institute of Technology.

The program included inspirational and insightful keynote addresses, tech talks, panel discussions, workshops and tutorials.The first keynote address was delivered by Prof. Kathleen Richardson, Professor of Ethics and Culture of Robots and AI at De Montfort University, Leicester. Her engaging and forward thinking talk “A dystopia in the making? – the rise and rise of ethics of robotics and AI” provided key insights into themes surrounding a human in the age of robots and AI, and machines providing substitutes for intimate human relationships.

The second keynote address was from Google, a Diamond supporter of the event, delivered by Radha Narayan who is working at the Googler in London. Radha has a vast experience in product, program and people management and is a passionate author. Through a ‘wonderful and empowering’ talk she took the audience through her own life journey exemplifying “The Four C’s of a Fulfilling Career”.The first TechTalk titled “Science keeps me walking in high heels and travel the world” was delivered by Milica Djurić-Jovičić, Director of Innovation Centre at the School of Electrical Engineering, University of Belgrade. Through her achievements, Milica has set an exemplary role model for younger women. She spoke about her research journey in the academia, from a “curious girl” with research aspirations to becoming “lady boss”, a head of the Faculty’s Innovation center.

The second Tech Talk titled “Giving the World a Place to Work Together” was delivered by Astha Agarwal and Rachel Gauci, working at the London office of Facebook, a Diamond supporter. Both engineers, Astha and Rachel shared their experiences and excitement of working on a product called Workplace that enables collaboration, group communication, and social network engagements in a corporate environment.

The attendees also had a chance to learn about “ACM Chapters and Celebrations of Women in Computing” from Reyyan Ayfer, vice chair of ACM-W, and George Eleftherakis, Chair of ACM’s Committee of European Chapter Leaders.They gave an engaging presentation, providing information about support and resources available to those who wish to organize regional celebration and establish student chapters.

Panels

Second panel discussion moderator George Eleftherakis
Second panel discussion moderator George Eleftherakis

The program also included two engaging panel discussions. Prof. Tiziana Catarci, from the University of Rome “La Sapienza”, moderated a panel on Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) and societal challenges of “Building Computing Systems and Services for the Society”. Panel participants Olja Rastic Dulborough, Multidisciplinary Software Engineer at IBM, Patricia Pons, PhD Student at the Polytechnic University of Valencia, Adriana Wilde, Associate Lecturer at the University of St Andrews, and Dorota Filipczuk, PhD Student at the University of Southampton, provided their view on the issues that arise from dramatic changes to individuals’ everyday practices and societal transformations due to prolific adoption of digital technologies. Together with the audience, they explored the challenges for the HCI as a field that strives to inform and drive new technological advancements and, at the same time, must ensure reach, inclusion, diversity and accessibility of innovation by all the members of the society.

The second panel was moderated by Dr George Eleftherakis from University of Sheffield International Faculty, CITY College in Thessaloniki. Five panel participants, Orlaith Lawton, Senior Marketing Manager at Oracle Academy, EMEA, Branka Stojanovic from the Institute Vlatacom, Katherine Stanley, Software Engineer at IBM, Alexandra Oborina, Senior Consultant at Accenture, and Xavier Salazar, Strategy Support Project Manager at Barcelona Supercomputing Center, discussed the issues of “Charting Your Professional Path: Academia, Industry, Both?” In a lively and interactive session they discussed the values and priorities that shape an individual’s decisions to select and pursue a specific career path. By exchanging experiences and opinions, the panelists engaged the audience in considering opportunities, benefits and challenges of different work environments including academia, sart-ups, industry and public sector organizations, non-for-profit organizations and similar.

Posters
womENcourage provides a supporting environment for students to present their work. For many, a womENcourage poster presentation is their first public presentation experience. This year, womENcourage introduced a sharpening process aimed at assisting students to improve their poster abstracts and presentations.
From 55 submissions, 25 posters were selected for inclusion in the event. The posters were exhibited throughout the event and provided students to discuss the details of heir research with the attendees. This year, the programme included 3-minute speed talks giving each poster presenter an opportunity to introduce their work to all the attendees during the main programme sessions.

Posters
The poster presenters came from 14 countries including UK, Spain, Ireland, Greece, Germany, Turkey, Albania, Slovenia, Azerbaijan, Russia, India, USA, Brazil and Chile.

 

Hackathon
womENcourage started with a Hackathon on the first day of the event. The Hackathon was open to all interested in technology and building and sharing their creations in a relaxed and welcoming atmosphere. Its main purpose was to have fun, learn something new, network and get to know each other, and support creativity by providing time and place for participants to explore their ideas and interests.

The participants were asked to suggest ideas prior to the event and given an opportunity to create teams from the participants. Selected projects were presented to the attendees who joined the projects based on their interest and preferences. As a result, 6 teams of 3-6 members – contact details were exchanged so that the members can discuss the project, brainstorm ideas and narrow down the focus of the work.

The 8 hour hacking experience, started with an ice-breaker: the teams were asked to spend 3 minutes introducing each other and then come up with a list of as many things as they could that all members of their teams had in common. This allowed them to get to know each other before beginning to work together. The team who performed best in the ice-breaker session found 8 things they all had in common!

The participants were not required to be programmers or have a Computer Science background. They were supported by amazing mentors from Belgrade Institute of Technology and Facebook, Inc., helping them all day! The teams were encouraged to start with brainstorming and then select their top three priorities. Whether the aim was to create a mockup of a design or to code the core algorithm, it was up to the teams to agree what the priorities were.

The crown of the Hackathon event were 5 min project demonstrations to a panel of judges. Astha Agrawal from Facebook, Inc., Nevena Stankovic from Google, Inc., Destin Valine from NCR Corporation, and Tiziana Catarci from the University of Rome “La Sapienza” evaluated the projects based on technical difficulties, impressiveness, usefulness and practicality, execution during the hackathon, and ACM Values, including the team work, learning scope and professional development outcomes.

The Hackathon prizes were awarded at the end of the day, during the Welcome Reception. The winning team received the first prize for prototyping a system to recognise fire in the forests – a method that could be extended to drones! The runner-up team worked on the smartphone accessibility for elderly people. Using NFC tags, they developed a simple touch interface for mobile phones, so that the users can easily select a phone number without looking it up.

Participants of the Hackathon described it as fun, exciting, interesting, challenging, and inspiring. They enjoyed working in teams, happy with the projects they selected. More than 90% of the participants expressed their interest to attend the Hackathon from the next womENcourage 2019.

Career Fair
The second day of the Conference provided an opportunity for the participants to meet representatives of the womENcourage supporters and discuss employment opportunities at their firms.  Google, Facebook, Bloomberg, Oracle Academy, IBM and HiPEAC all participated.  Here we see the participants checking out the HiPEAC job wall.

 

Volunteers
womENcourage is organized and run by volunteers. Recipients of the womENcourage Scholarships played a particularly important role during the event, assisting throughout the whole three days.volunteers

Feedback
Every year, womENcourage organizers conduct a survey to receive feedback on the programme and organization and to gather suggestions for the future. The participants were inspired by the keynotes and tech talks, suggesting “There should be more talks of this kind, we need to show more ladies who have made their path in the industry and be a role model for future generations.”, “Milica had managed to put the beauty and technology together in a unique, inspirational way.”, “An
excellent motivation for me regarding my career”, “fun, simple, inspiring and really encouraging”.

Asked whether they would like to attend womENcourage celebrations in the future, all the respondents to the survey answered Yes. This 100% vote of appreciation was a great success for the womENcourage organizers and ACM-WE. It is a step forward in the ACM-WE mission to connect women in technology and continue to inspire them on their professional journey.

Diversity workshop at EuroBSDCon

 

Diversity workshop at EuroBSDCon

In September, in Paris, twenty-five members of the EuroBSDCon community came together to discuss diversity in the community, in a workshop designed by ACM W Europe members.

EuroBSDcon is the premier European conference on the open source BSD operating systems attracting about 300 highly skilled engineering professionals, software developers, computer science students and professors, and users from all over Europe and other parts of the world. As with many Tech conferences, most of 300 attendees were male and, in the past, there were concerns about biases in the community communications and interactions that may discourage the participation of female members.
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In order to bring awareness about the issue, the community leaders have partnered with ACM W Europe to offer a bias-awareness workshop.

The workshop focuses on case studies developed from actual scenarios that occurred in tech communities. After cases are introduced, the workshop participants work in groups to discuss a case of their choice. At the end of the workshop each group presents their reflection and recommendations on managing issues highlighted in their case study. The recommendations typically range from changing the community code of conduct to introducing awareness activities, encouraging individuals to speak out, and putting in place support from fellow members.

Both the community leaders and the workshop participants expressed a strong conviction that raising awareness of behaviours that institute bias is the first and essential step to improve the community.  The workshop was seen as an effective instrument for enabling a change that is needed to support diversity in technical communities and conferences. By considering case-studies based on real situations, the participants have a chance to explore the beliefs and misconceptions that present barriers to diversity in their community and to explore options for actions.

That entices them to generate ideas and solutions that fit their community and helps their community leaders decide how to use resources to bring about the positive change.

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The workshop on Sept 23, 2017 in Paris was the second one presented to the EuroBSDcon community, following the first workshop at the EuroBSDcon 2016 in Belgrade, Serbia. As with the previous conference, the response was extremely positive. To quote the feedback from one of the attendees, the diversity workshop concept is ‘brilliant and effective’.

Post-workshop discussions with the participants and the community leaders confirmed that ACM W Europe should continue to offer the workshop and advertise it more broadly. For the next BSD event, we may expand the format to include experts on biases and diversity support in order to inform about general principles that can be useful for shaping community practices to increase diversity in the BSD projects.

Additional information about the diversity workshop at the EuroBSDCon 2017 can be found at:

https://www.freebsdfoundation.org/blog/conference-recap-eurobsdcon-2017-recap/

Attending the Heidelberg Laureate Forum as a Young Researcher

 

DenizBy Deniz Kecik

The 5th Heidelberg Laureate Forum took place only a few weeks ago, of which I feel the dreamy impact every day on my research endeavors as well as on a general perspective. As a female postdoctoral researcher who is working more on the computational physical sciences aspect, I even felt a sort of regret to not have found out about the HLF earlier, since apparently you may attend once during each career step starting from the Bachelor level. I was very excited since the moment back in April when I was notified about my acceptance to be among the 200 young researcher participants of the 5th HLF, and did not hesitate to share my enthusiasm with friends, colleagues and family at the cost of self-repetition.workshop

HLF is a once in a lifetime opportunity broadening one’s scientific and personal horizon immensely, and such a rewarding, prestigious, and valuable experience. You are given plenty of time to personally interact with the ACM Turing, Abel and Fields Medal Laureates and network with fellow bright young researchers in Computer Science & Math. Listening to the stories of the Laureates like Vint Cerf, John Hopcroft, Martin Hellman, Sir Michael Atiyah, Alexei Efros, Jeff Dean, Manuel Blum and many more along their career journeys, hearing about what it took them to reach that point were life lessons that will stay forever with me. I was surprised by the Laureates’ down-to-earth willingness to share their time and valuable knowledge with the Young Researchers (YR). During the lectures, hot-topic sessions, postdoc workshops and poster presentations, all YRs have been immersed in very intriguing topics such as deep learning in neuroscience, state-of-the-art in quantum computing, future of machine learning, consciousness of machines, interplanetary internet and so on.

The whole week passed in a great atmosphere thanks to the wonderful organizers of the HLF Foundation, opened by the beautiful music of the saxophone quartet, flavored by a refreshing boat trip on the Neckar river, and closed by the amazing view from the glorious Heidelberg castle. Plus, social events, excursions and fine dining were the bonuses! Realizing how wonderful it is to be surrounded with such creative, ambitious, talented and diverse minds from over 60 countries, I could not stop thinking about how lucky I was to be there. I was definitely inspired and motivated to contribute to the woman voice in science and technology in the long run, and HLF taught me that there is plenty of room for this where we all have duties to fill the gender-gap.group1

Looking back, I see applying to the HLF as one of the best things I have donegroup deniz for my personal and career development, and I advise next female YR attendees to truly grasp each moment of it as a precious gift. I strongly recommend that you seize the opportunity of investing in yourself with such a special event and increasing the ratio of woman researchers from 35% to at least 50%.

For having a better idea, you may check the youtube channel of the forum: https://www.youtube.com/user/LaureateForum

Biography Deniz Kecik

I am currently a post-doc in Bilkent University, Ankara.  I received my Ph.D degree from EPFL in Switzerland in 2013. My research is focused on computational modeling efforts for investigating the properties of next-generation nano-materials, using quantum-mechanical simulations in high-performance computing facilities.

Experience, Learn and Share at the Heidelberg Laureate Forum

by Zaineb Chelly Dagdia

Everything starts with an inspiration and a dream. Sometimes things keep popping up in your mind even when you close your eyes; when you go to bed Zainebor when you have a moment of peace with yourself. It just keeps smiling at you and reminding you every moment. You find yourself becoming so attached to it and this is where it switches from a dream to an exciting target. Somehow you know that the target will be difficult to achieve but you also know that you are eager to go for it and to do your best to excel.

My name is Zaineb Chelly Dagdia and I am a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Research Fellow at Aberystwyth University, Wales, UK.  My research career and my journey began with an inspiration; I am inspired by the laureates of all fields, winners of the Abel-Prize, Fields-Medal, ACM-Turing award, Nevanlinna Prize and ACM Prize in Computing. I am amazed by the achievements of the recipients,  this inspiration is what gives me the desire and the strength to work hard, to give my best and to excel in all I do. As a computer scientist, my goal is to make a considerable contribution to my research field; Artificial Immune Systems and Machine Learning. I worked hard to complete my Bachelor degree with honorable distinction at the “Faculté des Sciences Économiques et de Gestion de Nabeul” (FSEG-Nabeul), Tunisia.  I then worked on my Master’s degree at one of the top-ranked universities in Tunisia; “Institut Supérieur de Gestion de Tunis” (ISG-Tunis). There, I completed both my MSc and PhD degrees in Computer Science, also with honorable distinction.  My work,  publishing my research in good and reputable journals, writing book chapters and presenting at leading international conferences has challenged me.  This work was recognized and I was awarded the IEEE EHB Young Researcher First Prize, the ACM-Woman Award and the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Individual European Fellowship.  Additionally,  I am an Marie Skłodowska-Curie ambassador. Through all this, that dream, my target, that inspiration, was hand in hand with me; always pushing me to do my best.

Through that journey, opportunities come in to play.  I,  by chance, met  Christine Zarges, a leading researcher in theory of randomized search heuristics, at several conferences and with a lot of hard work we succeeded in obtaining the prestigious Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellowship for me, which made my position as a research fellow at Aberystwyth University possible. It was Christine who suggested and encouraged me to apply for the Heidelberg Laureate Forum (HLF), as she previously took part in the 1st HLF. Since then I have been very enthusiastic about taking part in it myself.  But hold on a minute!

It is the Heidelberg Laureate Forum!

At this event, the winners of the most prestigious awards in Mathematics and Computer Science, the Abel Prize, the Fields Medal (including the Nevanlinna Prize for contributions in “Mathematical Aspects of Information Science”), the ACM A.M. Turing Award and the ACM Prize in Computing are invited to participate. Oh! That is definitely a great opportunity! I felt like my dream popped up and smiled at me again! Then, I got confused and started wondering “Will I be able to meet the laureates? They are the source of my inspiration. The dream that lived with me and nourished me all the time to go ahead in my career”, “To talk to them and to share with them”, “Will I be able to introduce myself to them and to have some advice concerning my career?” That is what I would describe as a dream come true!zainebgroup

I had to carefully prepare my HLF application to not miss any chance and to not leave any  gaps. At HLF, the selection process is primarily handled by the award granting organizations, supported by the Heidelberg Institute for Theoretical StudiesMathematisches Forschungszentrum Oberwolfach and by Schloss Dagstuhl – Leibniz Center for Informatics. The candidates proposed by these organizations will be reviewed by the Foundation’s Scientific Board, which make the final decision.

When the time came, I received the notification of acceptance which made my day! I was among the 200 most qualified young researchers who were given this unique opportunity to enrich and share the exceptional atmosphere of the Heidelberg Laureate Forum. I was very excited about this and I started thinking about this special interaction offered by HLF. But it did not stop at that level as another opportunity appeared. The HLF committee invited all the postdoc participants to apply for the role of an organizer of one of the workshops held in conjunction with the HLF. The workshop topics were suggested by the participating laureates and/or by members of the Scientific Committee.

I found this so exciting and I did not want to miss a chance at being able to work closer and learn more about the laureates; and the chance to have some further interactions with the laureates. I prepared a well-planned proposal for the workshop entitled “Algorithms in Nature” and submitted it to the HLF reviewing panel.  My proposal was evaluated by the members of the Scientific Committee who accepted my proposal. Great! The good news was that for each workshop, there is one mentor, who is either a laureate or another expert in the field of the workshop. That was amazing! I had the honor of having Professor Stephen Smale, recipient of the Fields Medal, as my mentor.

Zaineb-SmaleIn terms of organization, I had the responsibility of defining a structure for the workshop, soliciting contributors (among the HLF participants), defining reading material that the participants of the workshop should read prior to the HLF, and eventually moderating the workshop – all this in close collaboration with my mentor.

Zaineb-Smale2Working together with one of the laureates was a dream and I am so happy that it was fulfilled. It was an honor for me to organize a workshop with Professor Stephen Smale; under his valuable guidance and advice. I was pleased that the workshop went so well and was successful and that I learned a lot from my mentor and I thank him very much for that. Thank you Professor Stephen Smale!

During HLF, I met the laureates, interacted with them and learned from them. That had definitely broadened the sphere of my knowledge and given me insights. Close interactions and panel discussions with the laureates were possible; all were available to feed the spirit and mind. As the laureates are my prime source of inspiration and since it was a unique opportunity to be with them at HLF, I wanted to keep a souvenir from this event; a tangible and a special one. I asked the laureates to write me some pieces of advice in my notebook and I made a very nice collection! I thank them all very much for their time and kindness. I kept reading my notebook and I smiled; that was when my dream, my inspiration, whispered to me and I remembered when I said “Will that be possible one day?”.

Being part of the Heidelberg Laureate Forum was a great opportunity for me to enlarge my contact network by meeting not only the laureates but also a large number of motivated young researchers in computer science and mathematics. Discussions with the forum ambitious attendees enabled me to learn more from their experiences, from their research fields and I could establish collaborations tied to my research field. Meeting the current and future leading researchers is a great chance to shape the future of research in computer science and mathematics.

I definitely recommend young researchers to apply for the coming HLF as it is a great experience to live. It is a big boost to motivation and networking opportunities. This forum offers plenty of opportunities for you, researchers, for growth and it is definitely a not to be missed an event. Do not hesitate and give yourself a chance! Apply and enjoy! And remember that you will not find any other event which will offer you such a chance. Just do it!

And in this concern, my heartfelt thanks to all the HLF organizers and all members who helped to make this event so successful.

Biography:

Zaineb Chelly Dagdia is a computer scientist who, thanks to her Marie-Skłodowska-Curie Individual European Fellowship, is currently developing her research on an optimized framework for Big Data pre-processing in certain and imprecise contexts at Aberystwyth University, Wales, UK.

Her research interests include different aspects of Artificial Intelligence. She writes on Evolutionary Algorithms and Artificial Immune Systems (AIS). She deals with reasoning under uncertainty and focuses on developing new AIS methods within an imprecise framework based on machine learning techniques and mathematical theories. She also extended her domain of expertise by dealing with Big Data.  Her career publications include good and reputable journals, book chapters and leading international conferences. She was awarded the IEEE EHB Young Researcher First Price, the ACM-Woman Award and the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Individual European Fellowship and she acts as a Marie Skłodowska-Curie ambassador.

Women in High Performance Computing

 

 

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Interview with WHPC

ACM-W Europe volunteer Mariam Kiran talked with Women in HPC (WHPC) organizers Toni Collins and Lorna Rivera to find out about the amazing work centered around the WHPC and what more can be done to improve female and minority representations in computing. Here they talk about their experiences in the HPC community.

 

Toni Collis:

toni    Toni Collis is the Director and co-founder of Women in HPC (WHPC), and an Applications Consultant in HPC Research and Industry at EPCC, the University of Edinburgh’s Supercomputing Centre (EPPC). Within EPCC Toni provides technical expertise on a range of research projects using HPC in academic software, from engineering to biology and teaches courses in the EPCC MSc in High Performance Computing. Toni is also part of the team that provides technical assistance to the UK national HPC service (ARCHER) community to help users port and optimise codes on ARCHER, and the provision of training for ARCHER users. As WHPC Director, Toni is responsible for leading the network, providing strategic guidance on its direction and the events that it runs and is also working on research into diversity in the HPC community. She has been on the organising committee for a variety of workshops and conferences including SC16, EuroMPI 2016, multiple WHPC events and is Inclusivity Chair for the SC17 conference.

 

Lorna Rivera:

LornaLorna Rivera serves as a Research Scientist in Program Evaluation at the Georgia Institute of Technology Center for Education Integrating Science, Mathematics and Computing (CEISMC). Her work focuses on the intersection of scientific content, pedagogy, and equity with the goal of being both methodologically innovative and socially responsible. Rivera has conducted evaluations primarily funded by the National Science Foundation’s Division of Advanced Cyberinfrastructure. This has led her to work with over 18 universities as well as multiple international high performance computing centers and organizations such as Compute Canada, EPCC, PRACE, RIKEN, and XSEDE. Rivera received both her Bachelor of Science in Health Education and her Master of Science in Health Education and Behavior from the University of Florida. Prior to joining Georgia Tech, Rivera worked with various institutions, including the March of Dimes, Shands HealthCare, and the University of Florida College of Medicine. Her research interests include the evaluation of innovative programs and their sustainability. Specialties include Program Evaluation, Mixed Methods Evaluation, Health Education and Promotion

workshop 2The workshops are definitely raising awareness for Women in HPC. Compared to previous years, do you think times are changing from women trying to make careers in HPC.

Toni: the conversation has evolved quite a bit over the years. Especially at SC16: the organizers put diversity initiatives on the agenda for the first time last year.

Lorna: We are seeing a longer-term support for diversity, which is more committed to solving the problem. What is important is that people who can make a difference are listening and based on our data from the HPC world it is leading to a cultural change.  Specifically rethinking the definition of excellence, making mentors available and nontraditional hires as examples

Have things changed at work now?

Toni: Not quite yet, the proportion has not changed yet. These things take time to percolate the system. It is relatively slow, but important effort is coming about as a result of WPHC. However, we do see that women are more visible now, especially the ones already there. And organizations are making sure that they are contributing and this all snowballs into the younger generation seeing more role models and hopefully lead to improved retention of women in the HPC workforce.

Lorna: We can be encouraged, also, at the undergraduate level. Colleges such as Harvey Mudd and Carnegie Mellon now have 40% female enrollment in computer science. The pipeline at this point is getting better. We can be hopeful that this is growing. Woman are also more vocal, which is good, as there is freedom to discuss. A number of institutions are now interested in diversity issues and want to start WHPC chapters in their place of work. This shows more people are opening up.

We see there are two problems at the moment – increasing entry of girls in computing and second, holding on to the current workforce, which seems to be leaking (the leaky pipeline). In both issues, what do you think are the main reasons for these issues? How can we repair these problems?

Lorna: It is very complex. One of the interesting things to be aware workshopof, is that the perception when women leave their jobs is that they leave workforce. This is not true. They actually continue their technical skills in another field such as healthcare, schools etc. There is also a perception that they leave due to family pressure, when only a small percentage leave all together. However, women are obviously leaving at dramatically higher level than men. Common concerns raised include that women often cite that they  have fewer opportunities or that they are put into roles such as project management. It is reported that there are  fewer opportunities to progress and fewer innovative projects or that they are given a technical task. This constant behavior will naturally frustrate a lot of people. Another thing could be the culture is not welcoming to women and minorities, and then they leave. The environment itself can play a big role. Such as social circles of men going to play basketball, with women not invited, and many more like this. Women will then leave as they don’t feel part of the group. It is a very complex problem.

Toni: I agree with Lorna. This focus on retention also impacts those coming in. A US study says 69% of teenage girls don’t even think of jobs in IT as a career path because they don’t know what it involves. But if they are told what an IT job entails 53% would consider it. The study found that teenagers (girls and boys) want to be paid well and girls in particular want a job that positively impacts society. Therefore reaching out to teenage girls to explain that it can be very well paid and the social impact of everything we do could have a huge impact on the entry point in the pipeline. There is link in talking to girls, impacting society and retaining the workforce. We need to link all of this up.

 

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Your workshops and BoF at SC in 2015 and 2016 were very successful, with myself attending one of them and discussing interesting case studies. In general, do you think we are still discussing the same issues every year? When do you think things will change and what is the ‘how’ needed for instigating change

Lorna: in some ways, the same issues are discussed, but they are important as people, who can make impact, are listening. We are gaining traction and also getting data from HPC World itself.

Toni: We need to have the data that is relevant to our community. More general research is relevant, but we also need to understand the unique aspects of the HPC community. I’m not sure of the timescale, but the workshops will gradually evolve. We are making progress. Across the entire social spectrum society is embracing equality in a way never done before. HPC was historically relying on everyone else, and this is what WHPC has really changed by making the HPC community take a specific interest in equality and inclusivity in this community. The social change brought about changing global attitude towards equality and diversify will help bring about change even faster. As the conversation changes, globally, we bring that positive message to our workshops and events.

Ok a bit of detour question here. How the game is actually played, is about opportunities. Certain persons are encouraged to apply for fellowships, ideas, partnerships. It is often reported that this damages equality opportunities as it is usually heads of department that encourage applications of this nature, which means that they are often subject to how they ‘fit in’, because they look a certain way or are part of the ‘brotherhood’. Then two or three years down the line, when it comes to promotions, you will naturally chose the person who has all the fellowships with his name. Eventually the faculty grows into one kind. Is this a real and systematic problem?

Lorna: we see this in all fields, in education as well, such as most CEOs being white men. This goes back to culture change. Also, discussing how these opportunities are important for change and leadership. Some faculties are changing how they advertise jobs so that they appeal to the non-traditional candidate. It is also important to make sure true sponsors are available from minority groups. I have a great female boss who is an advocate for my work. I recognize people don’t have opportunities but encourage people to go find and make groups to support each other.

Toni: Having an advocate or sponsor is fundamental in bringing about change. Having a mentor is important, but should be someone who is not involved in your day-to-day activities. To address the issue of certain people getting more opportunities often comes down to opening management’s eyes: explaining what unconscious bias is, and how to address it. Women should also be encouraged to try new things: I think we are sometimes so pushed back by the system we need to encourage each other a little. Everyone (women and men) sometimes needs a little encouragement! We also need to stop criticizing opportunities that are explicitly designed for women such as grants and fellowships for women in the workforce, just because they might label us in some way. These are actually very competitive and highly prestigious. As women in a male dominated community we have so many barriers in our way, so we should not feel bad about taking one of the few opportunities that is open to us.

Will you be organizing any future workshops either locally or at SC17? How can more women get involved in these initiatives?

 Toni: We have grand plans for 2017! We will be applying for workshops at future conferences such as SC and ISC. We are also expanding members to have more local events so that more women can take part and leaders can take part. We also aim to bring more male advocates to our events in 2017. WHPC is not only for women, but how to bring about positive change: this requires men to be involved too. We have free membership and encourage all to join. We are also looking for volunteers, to contribute to social media campaigns, contribute to our research and we are delighted to receive offers of help!

Lorna: There are some beginnings of partnerships with academia and industry. But we will have more information on this in the future. We want to do so much more; we are taking this very seriously.

We also want to work with organizations that overlap with our efforts. WHPC deals with HPC, physicists, biologists and medics (not only computing). So we want to share our best practices to work together where we can to bring about change for the greater good. People are supporting each other and this is truly a fellowship of people changing the world, which is fantastic.

7) lastly, imagine you wake up one day and the universe says, ” I give you the day you want, you cannot ask for more money, but I can improve your work and family (general life) day for today”. What you would like your day to look like (in both work environment and family life)?

Toni: my vision for a perfect day would be a day where I knew every single girl and boy has an equal chance of being a CEO or a nurse. Every child, irrespective of their color, background or gender, and crucially their parents knew they could be anything. There would be no concern, only encouragement, if your daughter wanted to be an astronaut or a grumpy professor or a teacher.

Lorna: Expanding this to a culture that recognizes that so that parents and society also accept the change. There will always be a group of people who don’t believe it. Not just equality but I hope for an equitable society, where folks are given equal opportunity for their ability. The tragedy is that we have brilliant people, who are begin overlooked, which is a waste. And we could improve society by having all of these brilliant people solving problems, rather than just 10-15% of them.

To keep up with the efforts of WHPC, please sign in to any or all of the following links:

www.facebook.com/womeninhpc/
https://www.linkedin.com/groups/8105215
twitter.com/women_in_hpc