Women in HPC at Supercomputing 2014

Author: Toni Collis
Posted: 28 Nov 2014 | 15:03

Last week Women in HPC took the HPC community (and New Orleans) by storm. As Supercomputing 2014 took over New Orleans, Women in HPC took over Supercomputing with a fantastic response.

WHPC was delighted to be involved in three events, including leading the Women in HPC workshop on Friday. On Tuesday, Intel hosted a discussion on how to encourage women to work in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) and overcome barriers in the workplace and to promotion. We had the chance to meet other women from the HPC community and to discuss our experiences. We are thrilled that Intel has taken such an interest in engaging women with technology, not just in HPC, and we were inspired (and we hope everyone else was too) by the discussions and experiences of everyone who took part.

Tuesday finished with the 5th Women in HPC Birds of a Feather Session including speeches from three leading ladies in HPC (including EPCC’s Executive Director of Operations, Alison Kennedy) discussing their experiences of mentoring and leadership and how they got to the place they are today. We also realised that one of the problems facing the promotion and retention of women in the HPC community was matching up jobs with candidates. The WHPC network hopes to start addressing this issue in the coming months!

Poster pitches at the SC14 Women In HPC workshop.

Finally, a fabulous week ended on a high with the first ever Women in HPC workshop. Professor Barbara Chapman from the University of Houston, Texas, started our day with her experiences in HPC, the hurdles she has faced and the progress she has made. The message that I took away was that it is more important to do what you want rather than what others want you to do!

We were then greatly impressed by a diverse range of talks and posters from early-career ladies working in HPC. The topics included using HPC to model solar wind, climate change, to improving edit-distance algorithms. The day finished at lunchtime with a Q&A session with leading women in HPC answering questions from the audience on improving the representation of Women in HPC. WHPC will be using this information to develop best practice guides for employers and employees around the world to improve equality. 

However, the workshop highlighted to us that our work has only just begun. The organisers of SC14 shared with us that of the attendees who declared their gender (the question was optional) only 11% were women. And sadly, we met a few people who didn’t understand why gender balance is important, but we remain determined to change the face of HPC and to make it an industry that everyone is welcome to work in.

WHPC on social media

Women in HPC is also taking over social media! If you would like to keep in touch please check in with us on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook.