Why Tech is Failing at Diversity and How It Can Succeed

By Kelly Nolan

July 11, 2017

Kelly Nolan, co-Chair for the PEARC.org 2017 conference Workforce Development and Diversity Stream and Compute Canada’s Executive Director, External Affairs, offers this perspective piece. PEARC17 is taking place this week, July 9-13, in New Orleans.

The sectors that are supposed to be all about innovation and the future continue to fail spectacularly at gender equity and diversity.

UK, US and Canada still haven’t managed to break the average 20 percent threshold for gender equity across STEM academic disciplines. And in some cases, the numbers of women are actually declining. Certain disciplines like to boast higher numbers but are still well below parity.

High-Performance Computing (HPC), Scientific Computing, Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) academic departments and the IT industry are the epicenters for wealth, power and our future prosperity.

These sectors are dominated by men who in general are blind to their privilege and of the negative experiences of women and other underrepresented groups in their fields.

A growing body of evidence makes clear that diverse teams that include women executives equal increased competitiveness, creativity, innovation and profitability. ​Forbes and McKinsey Global Institute conclude diversity and cultural competency will be the #1 skill for competitiveness in the knowledge economy.

The IT sector and STEM research are the most vulnerable to talent shortages. Yet, a​ccording to the ​Glassdoor.com, ​computer programming is the worst place to be if you’re expecting equal pay for equal work.

Women in HPC reports​ that the UK, US, Europe, and Canada have not achieved anything higher than 17 percent participation of women at HPC industry and academic conferences.

Of more than 5,000 respondents in a Compute Canada survey (non-profit that provides high performance computing services to researchers across Canada) showed only 22 percent identified as women, only 722 indicated they were visible minorities, and even more distressing only 22 were Indigenous researchers.

Efforts are focused on the wrong problem

For more than a decade, these sectors have adopted initiatives to motivate girls to study STEM and support, attract, train and retain women. None have succeeded in any big way because the focus is always on the group that is marginalized and not ​the dominant culture. Women are leaving or not joining these fields because the work/team environment is uncomfortable at best and unsafe at its worst.

The Elephant in the Valley project ​asked more than 200 women in Silicon Valley to share their experiences. ​65 percent of women who report unwanted sexual advances had received advances from a superior, with half receiving advances more than once. 1 in 3 have felt afraid of their personal safety because of work related circumstances. 66 percent felt excluded from key social/networking opportunities because of gender and 59 percent have felt they have not had the same opportunities as their male counterparts. 90 percent witnessed sexist behavior at company events and/or industry conferences.

The Dominant Culture Must Adapt

Women no longer willing to put up with sexual harassment and assault in the workplace in Silicon Valley have gone public with their experiences. Disgraced executives, lost business and large payouts have followed. So now that we have a stick to force gender equity, what will it take to increase men’s participation for diversity and inclusion beyond the usual photo-ops and lip service?

We need to push the burden of adaptation on the shoulders of the dominant culture ​and that means challenging colleagues in ways you may have avoided in the past.

Researchers at the Universities of Colorado, Texas and Singapore found women and minorities are judged harshly when promoting diversity in the workplace, and are often viewed as less effective, and receive poor performance reviews.

Understanding privilege is difficult when it is so prevalent and most men do not understand that their own experience is radically different from a colleague that is not part of the dominant culture.

Research shows punitive or obligatory diversity or cultural sensitivity training fails. However, champions for change are born through understanding and men can become informed and be powerful ambassadors. Women and visible minorities all have a story to tell; it is time to start listening.

We need more leaders to develop cultural competency as a strategic goal that is measured and supported. Managers, professors must be held accountable for closing the gender gap and it needs to be linked to performance or access to funding. We know it doesn’t just happen on its own.

Our current leaders need to think carefully about mitigating resistance to change within their organizations. Most STEM teams have similar interests, experiences and education.

These teams need to invest in understanding the experience of women and communities, professions and disciplines that are not the part of their current professional or social networks. The game has changed. Those that fight to maintain the status quo in STEM, IT and HPC are investing in a failing model that has reached its expiry date.

About the Author

Kelly Nolan is Compute Canada’s Executive Director, External Affairs to which she brings strong experience in marketing, strategic relations, diversity and inclusion and business development.

Kelly is Co-Chair for the PEARC.org 2017 conference Workforce Development and Diversity Stream. PEARC17 is currently taking place in New Orleans (July 9-13). Kelly is presenting and chairing several sessions on unconscious bias and the diversity in advanced high-performance research computing sectors.

Subscribe to HPCwire's Weekly Update!

Be the most informed person in the room! Stay ahead of the tech trends with industy updates delivered to you every week!

HOKUSAI’s BigWaterfall Cluster Extends RIKEN’s Supercomputing Performance

February 21, 2018

RIKEN, Japan’s largest comprehensive research institution, recently expanded the capacity and capabilities of its HOKUSAI supercomputer, a key resource managed by the institution’s Advanced Center for Computing and C Read more…

By Ken Strandberg

Neural Networking Shows Promise in Earthquake Monitoring

February 21, 2018

A team of Harvard University and MIT researchers report their new neural networking method for monitoring earthquakes is more accurate and orders of magnitude faster than traditional approaches. Read more…

By John Russell

HPE Wins $57 Million DoD Supercomputing Contract

February 20, 2018

Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) today revealed details of its massive $57 million HPC contract with the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD). The deal calls for HPE to provide the DoD High Performance Computing Modernizatio Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

Experience Memory & Storage Solutions that will Transform Your Data Performance

High performance computing (HPC) has revolutionized the way we harness insight, leading to a dramatic increase in both the size and complexity of HPC systems. Read more…

Topological Quantum Superconductor Progress Reported

February 20, 2018

Overcoming sensitivity to decoherence is a persistent stumbling block in efforts to build effective quantum computers. Now, a group of researchers from Chalmers University of Technology (Sweden) report progress in devisi Read more…

By John Russell

HOKUSAI’s BigWaterfall Cluster Extends RIKEN’s Supercomputing Performance

February 21, 2018

RIKEN, Japan’s largest comprehensive research institution, recently expanded the capacity and capabilities of its HOKUSAI supercomputer, a key resource manage Read more…

By Ken Strandberg

Neural Networking Shows Promise in Earthquake Monitoring

February 21, 2018

A team of Harvard University and MIT researchers report their new neural networking method for monitoring earthquakes is more accurate and orders of magnitude faster than traditional approaches. Read more…

By John Russell

HPE Wins $57 Million DoD Supercomputing Contract

February 20, 2018

Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) today revealed details of its massive $57 million HPC contract with the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD). The deal calls for HP Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Fluid HPC: How Extreme-Scale Computing Should Respond to Meltdown and Spectre

February 15, 2018

The Meltdown and Spectre vulnerabilities are proving difficult to fix, and initial experiments suggest security patches will cause significant performance penal Read more…

By Pete Beckman

Brookhaven Ramps Up Computing for National Security Effort

February 14, 2018

Last week, Dan Coats, the director of Director of National Intelligence for the U.S., warned the Senate Intelligence Committee that Russia was likely to meddle in the 2018 mid-term U.S. elections, much as it stands accused of doing in the 2016 Presidential election. Read more…

By John Russell

AI Cloud Competition Heats Up: Google’s TPUs, Amazon Building AI Chip

February 12, 2018

Competition in the white hot AI (and public cloud) market pits Google against Amazon this week, with Google offering AI hardware on its cloud platform intended Read more…

By Doug Black

Russian Nuclear Engineers Caught Cryptomining on Lab Supercomputer

February 12, 2018

Nuclear scientists working at the All-Russian Research Institute of Experimental Physics (RFNC-VNIIEF) have been arrested for using lab supercomputing resources to mine crypto-currency, according to a report in Russia’s Interfax News Agency. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

The Food Industry’s Next Journey — from Mars to Exascale

February 12, 2018

Global food producer and one of the world's leading chocolate companies Mars Inc. has a unique perspective on the impact that exascale computing will have on the food industry. Read more…

By Scott Gibson, Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Inventor Claims to Have Solved Floating Point Error Problem

January 17, 2018

"The decades-old floating point error problem has been solved," proclaims a press release from inventor Alan Jorgensen. The computer scientist has filed for and Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Japan Unveils Quantum Neural Network

November 22, 2017

The U.S. and China are leading the race toward productive quantum computing, but it's early enough that ultimate leadership is still something of an open questi Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

AMD Showcases Growing Portfolio of EPYC and Radeon-based Systems at SC17

November 13, 2017

AMD’s charge back into HPC and the datacenter is on full display at SC17. Having launched the EPYC processor line in June along with its MI25 GPU the focus he Read more…

By John Russell

Researchers Measure Impact of ‘Meltdown’ and ‘Spectre’ Patches on HPC Workloads

January 17, 2018

Computer scientists from the Center for Computational Research, State University of New York (SUNY), University at Buffalo have examined the effect of Meltdown Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

IBM Begins Power9 Rollout with Backing from DOE, Google

December 6, 2017

After over a year of buildup, IBM is unveiling its first Power9 system based on the same architecture as the Department of Energy CORAL supercomputers, Summit a Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Nvidia Responds to Google TPU Benchmarking

April 10, 2017

Nvidia highlights strengths of its newest GPU silicon in response to Google's report on the performance and energy advantages of its custom tensor processor. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Fast Forward: Five HPC Predictions for 2018

December 21, 2017

What’s on your list of high (and low) lights for 2017? Volta 100’s arrival on the heels of the P100? Appearance, albeit late in the year, of IBM’s Power9? Read more…

By John Russell

Russian Nuclear Engineers Caught Cryptomining on Lab Supercomputer

February 12, 2018

Nuclear scientists working at the All-Russian Research Institute of Experimental Physics (RFNC-VNIIEF) have been arrested for using lab supercomputing resources to mine crypto-currency, according to a report in Russia’s Interfax News Agency. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Leading Solution Providers

Chip Flaws ‘Meltdown’ and ‘Spectre’ Loom Large

January 4, 2018

The HPC and wider tech community have been abuzz this week over the discovery of critical design flaws that impact virtually all contemporary microprocessors. T Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Perspective: What Really Happened at SC17?

November 22, 2017

SC is over. Now comes the myriad of follow-ups. Inboxes are filled with templated emails from vendors and other exhibitors hoping to win a place in the post-SC thinking of booth visitors. Attendees of tutorials, workshops and other technical sessions will be inundated with requests for feedback. Read more…

By Andrew Jones

How Meltdown and Spectre Patches Will Affect HPC Workloads

January 10, 2018

There have been claims that the fixes for the Meltdown and Spectre security vulnerabilities, named the KPTI (aka KAISER) patches, are going to affect applicatio Read more…

By Rosemary Francis

GlobalFoundries, Ayar Labs Team Up to Commercialize Optical I/O

December 4, 2017

GlobalFoundries (GF) and Ayar Labs, a startup focused on using light, instead of electricity, to transfer data between chips, today announced they've entered in Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Tensors Come of Age: Why the AI Revolution Will Help HPC

November 13, 2017

Thirty years ago, parallel computing was coming of age. A bitter battle began between stalwart vector computing supporters and advocates of various approaches to parallel computing. IBM skeptic Alan Karp, reacting to announcements of nCUBE’s 1024-microprocessor system and Thinking Machines’ 65,536-element array, made a public $100 wager that no one could get a parallel speedup of over 200 on real HPC workloads. Read more…

By John Gustafson & Lenore Mullin

Flipping the Flops and Reading the Top500 Tea Leaves

November 13, 2017

The 50th edition of the Top500 list, the biannual publication of the world’s fastest supercomputers based on public Linpack benchmarking results, was released Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

V100 Good but not Great on Select Deep Learning Aps, Says Xcelerit

November 27, 2017

Wringing optimum performance from hardware to accelerate deep learning applications is a challenge that often depends on the specific application in use. A benc Read more…

By John Russell

SC17: Singularity Preps Version 3.0, Nears 1M Containers Served Daily

November 1, 2017

Just a few months ago about half a million jobs were being run daily using Singularity containers, the LBNL-founded container platform intended for HPC. That wa Read more…

By John Russell

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
Share This