Women in HPC Luncheon Shines Light on Female-Friendly Hiring Practices

By Tiffany Trader

July 13, 2017

The second annual Women in HPC luncheon was held on June 20, 2017, during the International Supercomputing Conference in Frankfurt, Germany. The luncheon provides participants the opportunity to network with industry leaders and meet new contacts as well as brainstorm about ways to improve diversity and inclusivity for women within the HPC community.

As keynote speaker Angelo Apa of Lenovo noted, “if this was an easy problem to solve we would have fixed it already, so we need to generate ideas. My request of you today is in exchange for lunch help us solve these problems.”

Angelo Apa, Lenovo

Apa, technical sales and business development director at Lenovo Enterprise business group, shared the reality that between 18 and 30 percent of the workforce in the tech industry is female depending upon the country. “This is rubbish anyway you look at it,” he said. “We really need to do something about this.”

Lenovo’s numbers are better: 37 percent of its total global workforce is female, 14 percent of execs and 30 percent of managers. But, as Apa is quick to point out, these numbers are skewed by China having representation of women far above the global average.

“There is inherently a culture of diversity at all times in Lenovo,” said Apa, who’s worked in tech for over 30 years. The business was started in 1984 in Beijing by 10 people, seven men and three women. “Because they wanted to grow so quickly they realized they had to become multi-country, multi-cultural very quickly, so the whole diversity thing generally is pretty strong culturally inside of Lenovo. Now what we need to do is work on how we can develop that so we see a higher degree of general diversity than we see today in Europe.”

“We need to make sure that we are mirroring society because if we’re not, then we’re not relevant,” said Apa. “It doesn’t matter if you make the best servers in the world; it doesn’t matter if you make the cheapest servers in the world. It makes absolutely no difference whatsoever. If you’re not mirroring your customer, then that customer will not buy from you. So that’s something that we really need to work on from a business perspective as well as everything else.”

In 2007, Catherine Ladousse, executive director of communication EMEA at Lenovo, started the Women in Lenovo Leadership (WILL) program, which includes an executive training program that fast-tracks talented women in the company, providing them with individual coaching and professional development sessions.

At a WILL breakfast event in Milan held earlier this year, Apa was speaking with Paul Rector who runs the Lenovo global accounts business worldwide about recruiting women applicants. Apa’s job advertisements were failing to attract women. Rector recalled the advice of a hiring consultant he had worked with: write job descriptions in a female-friendly way.

“But surely a job description is just factual,” Apa thought, “What does it mean to write it in female-friendly way?”

Apa recently went through a female recruiter to fill an open position, a pre-sales technical role. Going through all of the usual channels resulted in not a single female applicant.

“Can you help me understand what’s going on here and how to improve recruitment efforts?” Apa asked the room.

Rebecca Hartman-Baker, Berkeley Lab (center)

“Sounds like you need new channels,” said Rebecca Hartman-Baker of Berkeley Lab. “It’s like if you were going to go out fishing and you went to your fishing hole and there were no fish there, you’d find another fishing hole where you can find the fish.”

Allison Kennedy, co-founder and senior advisor Women in HPC and director, Hartree Centre, emphasized the need for more effective outreach. “I think you have to contact woman directly, go through networks. Women are more likely to know other women.”

Another idea was to advertise with Women in HPC, which is completely free.

The potential for sexism in the recruiter, even if female, was also raised and the importance of implicit bias training.

The 70 or so attendees, mostly women and a few male colleagues, were not short on ideas for crafting a female-friendly job description. If the job description specifies expert-level experience or cites an extensive list of requirements, women are more likely than men to take themselves out of the running. “Make sure you’re not making a laundry list where you’re looking for a purple unicorn with rainbow tail, something that doesn’t exist,” added Hartman-Baker. “Women tend to look at a list like that and if they don’t have 100 percent of all of those qualifications they’re not going to apply. With men, it’s 40 percent. If they have 40 percent, they will apply.”

Micron’s Richard Murphy added that in his experience teaching undergraduate classes, even when the smartest person in the class is a woman, the person most likely to answer a question is a guy who was guessing. “So it does not surprise me that a woman would look at a list like that and think they had to check all of those boxes,” he said.

Toni Collis, EPCC and Women in HPC

Research conducted by Women in HPC backs up this point. A study done with International HPC Summer School applicants found that even with similar experience levels, women would consistently rate themselves lower than men when asked to rate their knowledge of skills.

“I think one of the barriers is when we present it as ‘you must be an expert’,” said Toni Collis, director of Women in HPC. “How many times have we read a job description where you must be an expert in MPI, and how many women would call themselves an expert compared to their male colleagues?”

Cristin Merrit, Alces Flight

Cristin Merrit, partner manager for Alces Flight, questioned the wisdom of gatekeeping based on formal technical education. “When you are hiring for pre-sales, you are already asking for hen’s teeth. You don’t want to shrink your pool before you even get out the door.” Here, cover letters allow applicants to explain their background and skill sets when they don’t fit traditional boxes.

In wrapping up the networking event, Collis shared, “It’s all well and good HR telling us what to do, but if it’s not working for us why are we doing it?”

“You’re here because you get this, right?” Collis told the audience. “The people who really need to be here aren’t here. So I ask you to go and be ambassadors for Women in HPC as an initiative. If you aren’t already a member, join right now and get your male colleagues to join.”

Membership for individuals is free and includes a monthly newsletter with updates on what Women in HPC is doing and why they’re doing it which is the crucial thing, according to Collis.

“I wake up every morning to change the world — that’s why I get out of bed in the morning, that’s why I do this,” said Collis. “Don’t get me wrong — it’s fantastic that occasionally I get to play with the fastest machines in the world, but the reason I do it is because I’m here to change the world. I think as a community, HPC and supercomputing, we spend an awful lot of time telling people outside of our community and the taxpayers at the end of the day that we do it because we can make this big machine; we forget the why, we forget the science that it enables, we forget the fact that really we can save lives with climate change studies and with weather prediction and so much more. We can do so much with HPC, but we don’t sell that message enough. And if we sell that message, it’s not just going to improve the situation with funding, it’s going to bring in women.

“I always use my husband as an example here,” Collis continued. “He’s in HPC as well. We’re two sides of the same coin. He is a computer scientist at heart, it’s where he belongs. He wakes up every morning because he just loves coding. I mean he just can’t get enough of it. I wake up every morning to change the world, the coding is just something that happens. But I do this because of what it can do and everybody is here for a different reason, but if we’re only given one side of it, the coding side, we’re missing a huge swath of people who are attracted by the fact that we make a difference. So please go away and be an ambassador.”

Women in HPC is entirely funded by donations and support, including the support of EPCC who set up Women in HPC. The Women in HPC luncheon was made possible through the support of ISC, PRACE, Lenovo and Xand McMahon. Find out more about Lenovo’s initiative to encourage gender diversity in the workplace at www.lenovowomen.com.

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!

Live and in Color, Meet the European Student Cluster Teams

November 21, 2017

The SC17 Student Cluster Competition welcomed two teams from Europe, the German team of FAU/TUC and Team Poland, the pride of Warsaw. Let's get to know them better through the miracle of video..... Team FAU/TUC is a c Read more…

By Dan Olds

SC17 Student Cluster Kick Off – Guts, Glory, Grep

November 21, 2017

The SC17 Student Cluster Competition started with a well-orchestrated kick-off emceed by Stephen Harrell, the competition chair. It began with a welcome from SC17 chair Bernd Mohr, where he lauded the competition for Read more…

By Dan Olds

Activist Investor Starboard Buys 10.7% Stake in Mellanox; Sale Possible?

November 20, 2017

Starboard Value has reportedly taken a 10.7 percent stake in interconnect specialist Mellanox Technologies, and according to the Wall Street Journal, has urged the company “to improve its margins and stock and explore Read more…

By John Russell

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

Harness Scalable Petabyte Storage with HPE Apollo 4510 and HPE StoreEver

As a growing number of connected devices challenges IT departments to rapidly collect, manage, and store troves of data, organizations must adopt a new generation of IT to help them operate quickly and intelligently. Read more…

Installation of Sierra Supercomputer Steams Along at LLNL

November 20, 2017

Sierra, the 125 petaflops (peak) machine based on IBM’s Power9 chip being built at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, sometimes takes a back seat to Summit, the ~200 petaflops system being built at Oak Ridge Natio Read more…

By John Russell

Live and in Color, Meet the European Student Cluster Teams

November 21, 2017

The SC17 Student Cluster Competition welcomed two teams from Europe, the German team of FAU/TUC and Team Poland, the pride of Warsaw. Let's get to know them bet Read more…

By Dan Olds

SC17 Student Cluster Kick Off – Guts, Glory, Grep

November 21, 2017

The SC17 Student Cluster Competition started with a well-orchestrated kick-off emceed by Stephen Harrell, the competition chair. It began with a welcome from Read more…

By Dan Olds

SC Bids Farewell to Denver, Heads to Dallas for 30th

November 17, 2017

After a jam-packed four-day expo and intensive six-day technical program, SC17 has wrapped up another successful event that brought together nearly 13,000 visit Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

SC17 Keynote – HPC Powers SKA Efforts to Peer Deep into the Cosmos

November 17, 2017

This week’s SC17 keynote – Life, the Universe and Computing: The Story of the SKA Telescope – was a powerful pitch for the potential of Big Science projects that also showcased the foundational role of high performance computing in modern science. It was also visually stunning. Read more…

By John Russell

How Cities Use HPC at the Edge to Get Smarter

November 17, 2017

Cities are sensoring up, collecting vast troves of data that they’re running through predictive models and using the insights to solve problems that, in some Read more…

By Doug Black

Student Cluster LINPACK Record Shattered! More LINs Packed Than Ever before!

November 16, 2017

Nanyang Technological University, the pride of Singapore, utterly destroyed the Student Cluster Competition LINPACK record by posting a score of 51.77 TFlop/s a Read more…

By Dan Olds

Hyperion Market Update: ‘Decent’ Growth Led by HPE; AI Transparency a Risk Issue

November 15, 2017

The HPC market update from Hyperion Research (formerly IDC) at the annual SC conference is a business and social “must,” and this year’s presentation at S Read more…

By Doug Black

Nvidia Focuses Its Cloud Containers on HPC Applications

November 14, 2017

Having migrated its top-of-the-line datacenter GPU to the largest cloud vendors, Nvidia is touting its Volta architecture for a range of scientific computing ta Read more…

By George Leopold

US Coalesces Plans for First Exascale Supercomputer: Aurora in 2021

September 27, 2017

At the Advanced Scientific Computing Advisory Committee (ASCAC) meeting, in Arlington, Va., yesterday (Sept. 26), it was revealed that the "Aurora" supercompute Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

NERSC Scales Scientific Deep Learning to 15 Petaflops

August 28, 2017

A collaborative effort between Intel, NERSC and Stanford has delivered the first 15-petaflops deep learning software running on HPC platforms and is, according Read more…

By Rob Farber

Oracle Layoffs Reportedly Hit SPARC and Solaris Hard

September 7, 2017

Oracle’s latest layoffs have many wondering if this is the end of the line for the SPARC processor and Solaris OS development. As reported by multiple sources Read more…

By John Russell

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

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

Google Releases Deeplearn.js to Further Democratize Machine Learning

August 17, 2017

Spreading the use of machine learning tools is one of the goals of Google’s PAIR (People + AI Research) initiative, which was introduced in early July. Last w Read more…

By John Russell

GlobalFoundries Puts Wind in AMD’s Sails with 12nm FinFET

September 24, 2017

From its annual tech conference last week (Sept. 20), where GlobalFoundries welcomed more than 600 semiconductor professionals (reaching the Santa Clara venue Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Amazon Debuts New AMD-based GPU Instances for Graphics Acceleration

September 12, 2017

Last week Amazon Web Services (AWS) streaming service, AppStream 2.0, introduced a new GPU instance called Graphics Design intended to accelerate graphics. The Read more…

By John Russell

Leading Solution Providers

EU Funds 20 Million Euro ARM+FPGA Exascale Project

September 7, 2017

At the Barcelona Supercomputer Centre on Wednesday (Sept. 6), 16 partners gathered to launch the EuroEXA project, which invests €20 million over three-and-a-half years into exascale-focused research and development. Led by the Horizon 2020 program, EuroEXA picks up the banner of a triad of partner projects — ExaNeSt, EcoScale and ExaNoDe — building on their work... Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Delays, Smoke, Records & Markets – A Candid Conversation with Cray CEO Peter Ungaro

October 5, 2017

Earlier this month, Tom Tabor, publisher of HPCwire and I had a very personal conversation with Cray CEO Peter Ungaro. Cray has been on something of a Cinderell Read more…

By Tiffany Trader & Tom Tabor

Cray Moves to Acquire the Seagate ClusterStor Line

July 28, 2017

This week Cray announced that it is picking up Seagate's ClusterStor HPC storage array business for an undisclosed sum. "In short we're effectively transitioning the bulk of the ClusterStor product line to Cray," said CEO Peter Ungaro. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Reinders: “AVX-512 May Be a Hidden Gem” in Intel Xeon Scalable Processors

June 29, 2017

Imagine if we could use vector processing on something other than just floating point problems.  Today, GPUs and CPUs work tirelessly to accelerate algorithms Read more…

By James Reinders

Intel Launches Software Tools to Ease FPGA Programming

September 5, 2017

Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs) have a reputation for being difficult to program, requiring expertise in specialty languages, like Verilog or VHDL. Easin Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPC Chips – A Veritable Smorgasbord?

October 10, 2017

For the first time since AMD's ill-fated launch of Bulldozer the answer to the question, 'Which CPU will be in my next HPC system?' doesn't have to be 'Whichever variety of Intel Xeon E5 they are selling when we procure'. Read more…

By Dairsie Latimer

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

IBM Advances Web-based Quantum Programming

September 5, 2017

IBM Research is pairing its Jupyter-based Data Science Experience notebook environment with its cloud-based quantum computer, IBM Q, in hopes of encouraging a new class of entrepreneurial user to solve intractable problems that even exceed the capabilities of the best AI systems. Read more…

By Alex Woodie

Share This