SC17 Preview: Q&A with Women in HPC’s Toni Collis

By Tiffany Trader

October 31, 2017

HPCwire interviews Women in HPC’s Toni Collis about the importance of diversity and inclusion in high-performance computing. An Applications Consultant in HPC Research and Industry at Edinburgh Parallel Computing Centre (EPCC) and also SC17’s Inclusivity Chair, Collis co-founded the Women in HPC (WHPC) network in early 2014 in the UK, with the intention of providing a UK network for women. A half-day workshop at SC14 in New Orleans jump-started the organization’s international activities, which have since expanded considerably. At SC17, the group hosts multiple BoFs, evening networking events and a mentoring program. “Women in HPC is truly an international network of volunteers from academia, industry and national labs from all around the world,” says Collis.

HPCwire: What is the unifying theme for this year’s SC WHPC activities?

Toni Collis

Toni Collis: At SC17 WHPC has a program aimed at enhancing the careers of women at all stages of their careers by providing them with a platform to showcase their work, and also to provide a wide variety of female role models, which both inspire women, but also help to address any implicit bias towards the role of women in HPC that both women and men may have. We will also spend a significant time building networking opportunities for women and also providing managers, hirers, leaders and their organisations with both the key facts around diversity and methods to improve diversity and inclusion.

The full list of WHPC activities at SC17 is available on our special SC17 event page https://www.womeninhpc.org/whpc-sc17/. But we also encourage people to join us (http://www.womeninhpc.org/membership/individual/), so they can stay in touch with our monthly newsletter. WHPC is also on Twitter (@women_in_hpc), Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/womeninhpc/) and LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com/groups/8105215) where we encourage conversation on what methods are effective on improving diversity, what works for the HPC community and seeking new ideas.

If you want to know more about the activities around diversity and inclusion at SC, please take a look at the SC Inclusivity pages http://sc17.supercomputing.org/inclusivity/.

HPCwire: The HPC Matters program, initiated in 2014, raised awareness about the vital role HPC plays in helping make the world a better place. In that same spirit, what is meant by Inclusivity and why does Inclusivity matter?

Collis: The work of the ‘HPC Matters’ message can be incredibly important to improving diversity and inclusion in the community for women and other groups. Many of us need to know that our work has a positive impact on society. What is fascinating is that this is more prevalent in women than men: 50 percent of women report wanting their work to have a positive impact, whereas only 31 percent of men report this as being crucial to their career choices. As we all know, HPC and supercomputing are indeed vitally important to the progress of society, but we all need to make an effort to share this, and not just delve into the (important!) details of what we do.

The SC17 Inclusivity activities were initiated as a recognition of the importance of diversity in our community. There is growing evidence that diversity is good for research and business, increasing ‘team’ or collective IQ, decision making, citation rates, a business’ return on equity and much more. We strongly believe that an individual’s personal characteristics should not be a barrier to participating, but we are also aware that the barrier to participation for anyone who belongs to an underrepresented group in any field can be high. In 2016, SC16’s General Chair, John West, established a Diversity team to look at this from the conference’s perspective: what can the conference do to impact the workforce, and crucially are their things at the conference that currently negatively impact or stall progress towards diversity? For SC17 the Executive and Steering committee wanted to publicly acknowledge that we are going beyond diversity. Diversity is important, but a feeling of inclusion for all can have an even bigger positive impact: our activities will benefit everyone, not just the underrepresented groups.

HPCwire: What are the focus areas of SC17’s Inclusivity program?

Collis: We have three main aims for 2017:

  • Expand our reach and ‘inclusivity’ activities for groups we have already identified as being under-represented in our community, such as women and underrepresented minorities;
  • To find out more about these and other groups, what is impacting them both positively and negatively, and if there are differences with the rest of the community;
  • To encourage a discussion on the importance and benefits of inclusion and diversity across the world-wide supercomputing community.

The SC17 conference on its own cannot change the recruitment and retention of a diverse and inclusive HPC workforce, but I believe that it can meaningfully contribute by sharing the information we find out, and encourage others to measure their demographics, analyse and address the situation in their own institutions.

To achieve these goals we will be continuing and expanding our provision for attendees with children. The conference now has a Child Policy which enables parents to bring their children to the conference, irrespective of their age while protecting the safety of the child. The conference is also continuing and expanding childcare provision and parents facilities, as well as emphasising how to participate in the Family Day. We have brought back the prayer room and we are constantly seeking to improve the attendee experience, both by expanding our ‘navigating SC’ sessions in an online FAQ and during the conference, so attendees can get answers to common concerns ahead of the conference. We also will be seeking feedback from attendees: by monitoring, measuring and understanding the attendee experience we aim to develop the conference to ensure that the environment is as inclusive and diverse as possible.

HPCwire: I’ve asked you this before, but I think it’s important to reiterate: Who is Women in HPC for?

Collis: Women in HPC really is for everyone. Our vision is to address the underrepresentation of women, and we can’t do that without men being involved in the conversation. Our career activities are open to men, and we actively encourage men to attend our events. Crucially the support we offer women is beneficial to everyone, so although we market our activities as ‘Women in HPC’, we welcome attendance from all. By doing this we are not only building a network of women but a community of women and their allies and advocates who can encourage participation by all. Although our mission focuses on women, our work on disseminating change and best practice often applies to multiple areas, and we are also keen to actively engage with other underrepresented groups. More than anything, we are a welcoming and open community and hope to see more men participate in the discussion in Denver.

HPCwire: You’ve said that there’s no perfect way to be a woman in HPC? What does that mean?

Collis: I believe that the benefit of women to the community is not just our numbers but our diversity of experiences, ideas and innovation. Some people talk about giving women the skills to become more like those already in the community (i.e. men), but I believe that we shouldn’t be changing women but instead changing the system that doesn’t recognise the contribution of those that are a little different. There shouldn’t be an ideal or perfect route into HPC: our community thrives on its interdisciplinary ideas and applications. Instead we need to recognise that what is important is someone’s potential not whether their CV looks like the rest of the people we work with. If the community recognises this we will also expand the proportion of candidates from other groups, not just women, who can fulfill their potential in the supercomputing workforce.

Our uniqueness and diversity is the key to the benefit to the community and to change women to ‘fit in’ would lose that.

HPCwire: What are some strategies for helping women make the most of their time at technical events?

Collis: The same strategies that apply to men! The difference might be whether women are having the same experience of the conference as men. If you find the event intimidating (many do, and not just women!, as it is such a big conference), realise that you are not alone! Consider finding a ‘buddy’ early on in the conference that you can hang out with. Aim to identify the tech program elements that will be of most benefit to you before you turn up, so you can plan your week and avoid the overwhelming experience of choosing on the day. Don’t be afraid to approach speakers, either by asking a question or contacting them afterwards: doing this with a buddy can be less intimidating. The conference is also a great time to meet people who you have connected with virtually for the first time, but as it is such a busy week contact them before the conference to find a time that works for you both.

If you are a more experienced member of the SC community, you might want to use SC as an opportunity to give back. SC is a great way to provide some informal mentorship and sponsorship. Mentorship and sponsorship can have significant impact on the careers of all, with growing evidence that the mentorship is even more important to women than their male peers. SC can be a great place to meet potential mentors, sponsors and collaborators, whatever your career stage.

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!

University of Stuttgart Inaugurates ‘Hawk’ Supercomputer

February 20, 2020

This week, the new “Hawk” supercomputer was inaugurated in a ceremony at the High-Performance Computing Center of the University of Stuttgart (HLRS). Officials, scientists and other stakeholders celebrated the new sy Read more…

By Staff report

US to Triple Its Supercomputing Capacity for Weather and Climate with Two New Crays

February 20, 2020

The blizzard of news around the race for weather and climate supercomputing leadership continues. Just three days after the UK announced a £1.2 billion plan to build the world’s largest weather and climate supercomputer, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration... Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Indiana University Researchers Use Supercomputing to Model the State’s Largest Watershed

February 20, 2020

With water stressors on the rise, understanding and protecting water supplies is more important than ever. Now, a team of researchers from Indiana University has created a new climate change data portal to help Indianans Read more…

By Staff report

TACC – Supporting Portable, Reproducible, Computational Science with Containers

February 20, 2020

Researchers who use supercomputers for science typically don't limit themselves to one system. They move their projects to whatever resources are available, often using many different systems simultaneously, in their lab Read more…

By Aaron Dubrow

China Researchers Set Distance Record in Quantum Memory Entanglement

February 20, 2020

Efforts to develop the necessary capabilities for building a practical ‘quantum-based’ internet have been ongoing for years. One of the biggest challenges is being able to maintain and manage entanglement of remote q Read more…

By John Russell

AWS Solution Channel

Challenging the barriers to High Performance Computing in the Cloud

Cloud computing helps democratize High Performance Computing by placing powerful computational capabilities in the hands of more researchers, engineers, and organizations who may lack access to sufficient on-premises infrastructure. Read more…

IBM Accelerated Insights

Intelligent HPC – Keeping Hard Work at Bay(es)

Since the dawn of time, humans have looked for ways to make their lives easier. Over the centuries human ingenuity has given us inventions such as the wheel and simple machines – which help greatly with tasks that would otherwise be extremely laborious. Read more…

New Algorithm Allows PCs to Challenge HPC in Weather Forecasting

February 19, 2020

Accurate weather forecasting has, by and large, been situated squarely in the domain of high-performance computing – just this week, the UK announced a nearly $1.6 billion investment in the world’s largest supercompu Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

US to Triple Its Supercomputing Capacity for Weather and Climate with Two New Crays

February 20, 2020

The blizzard of news around the race for weather and climate supercomputing leadership continues. Just three days after the UK announced a £1.2 billion plan to build the world’s largest weather and climate supercomputer, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration... Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Japan’s AIST Benchmarks Intel Optane; Cites Benefit for HPC and AI

February 19, 2020

Last April Intel released its Optane Data Center Persistent Memory Module (DCPMM) – byte addressable nonvolatile memory – to increase main memory capacity a Read more…

By John Russell

UK Announces £1.2 Billion Weather and Climate Supercomputer

February 19, 2020

While the planet is heating up, so is the race for global leadership in weather and climate computing. In a bombshell announcement, the UK government revealed p Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

The Massive GPU Cloudburst Experiment Plays a Smaller, More Productive Encore

February 13, 2020

In November, researchers at the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC) and the IceCube Particle Astrophysics Center (WIPAC) set out to break the internet – or Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Eni to Retake Industry HPC Crown with Launch of HPC5

February 12, 2020

With the launch of its Dell-built HPC5 system, Italian energy company Eni regains its position atop the industrial supercomputing leaderboard. At 52-petaflops p Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Trump Budget Proposal Again Slashes Science Spending

February 11, 2020

President Donald Trump’s FY2021 U.S. Budget, submitted to Congress this week, again slashes science spending. It’s a $4.8 trillion statement of priorities, Read more…

By John Russell

Policy: Republicans Eye Bigger Science Budgets; NSF Celebrates 70th, Names Idea Machine Winners

February 5, 2020

It’s a busy week for science policy. Yesterday, the National Science Foundation announced winners of its 2026 Idea Machine contest seeking directions for futu Read more…

By John Russell

Fujitsu A64FX Supercomputer to Be Deployed at Nagoya University This Summer

February 3, 2020

Japanese tech giant Fujitsu announced today that it will supply Nagoya University Information Technology Center with the first commercial supercomputer powered Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Julia Programming’s Dramatic Rise in HPC and Elsewhere

January 14, 2020

Back in 2012 a paper by four computer scientists including Alan Edelman of MIT introduced Julia, A Fast Dynamic Language for Technical Computing. At the time, t Read more…

By John Russell

Cray, Fujitsu Both Bringing Fujitsu A64FX-based Supercomputers to Market in 2020

November 12, 2019

The number of top-tier HPC systems makers has shrunk due to a steady march of M&A activity, but there is increased diversity and choice of processing compon Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

SC19: IBM Changes Its HPC-AI Game Plan

November 25, 2019

It’s probably fair to say IBM is known for big bets. Summit supercomputer – a big win. Red Hat acquisition – looking like a big win. OpenPOWER and Power processors – jury’s out? At SC19, long-time IBMer Dave Turek sketched out a different kind of bet for Big Blue – a small ball strategy, if you’ll forgive the baseball analogy... Read more…

By John Russell

Intel Debuts New GPU – Ponte Vecchio – and Outlines Aspirations for oneAPI

November 17, 2019

Intel today revealed a few more details about its forthcoming Xe line of GPUs – the top SKU is named Ponte Vecchio and will be used in Aurora, the first plann Read more…

By John Russell

IBM Unveils Latest Achievements in AI Hardware

December 13, 2019

“The increased capabilities of contemporary AI models provide unprecedented recognition accuracy, but often at the expense of larger computational and energet Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

SC19: Welcome to Denver

November 17, 2019

A significant swath of the HPC community has come to Denver for SC19, which began today (Sunday) with a rich technical program. As is customary, the ribbon cutt Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Fujitsu A64FX Supercomputer to Be Deployed at Nagoya University This Summer

February 3, 2020

Japanese tech giant Fujitsu announced today that it will supply Nagoya University Information Technology Center with the first commercial supercomputer powered Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

51,000 Cloud GPUs Converge to Power Neutrino Discovery at the South Pole

November 22, 2019

At the dead center of the South Pole, thousands of sensors spanning a cubic kilometer are buried thousands of meters beneath the ice. The sensors are part of Ic Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Leading Solution Providers

SC 2019 Virtual Booth Video Tour

AMD
AMD
ASROCK RACK
ASROCK RACK
AWS
AWS
CEJN
CJEN
CRAY
CRAY
DDN
DDN
DELL EMC
DELL EMC
IBM
IBM
MELLANOX
MELLANOX
ONE STOP SYSTEMS
ONE STOP SYSTEMS
PANASAS
PANASAS
SIX NINES IT
SIX NINES IT
VERNE GLOBAL
VERNE GLOBAL
WEKAIO
WEKAIO

Jensen Huang’s SC19 – Fast Cars, a Strong Arm, and Aiming for the Cloud(s)

November 20, 2019

We’ve come to expect Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang’s annual SC keynote to contain stunning graphics and lively bravado (with plenty of examples) in support of GPU Read more…

By John Russell

Top500: US Maintains Performance Lead; Arm Tops Green500

November 18, 2019

The 54th Top500, revealed today at SC19, is a familiar list: the U.S. Summit (ORNL) and Sierra (LLNL) machines, offering 148.6 and 94.6 petaflops respectively, Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Azure Cloud First with AMD Epyc Rome Processors

November 6, 2019

At Ignite 2019 this week, Microsoft's Azure cloud team and AMD announced an expansion of their partnership that began in 2017 when Azure debuted Epyc-backed instances for storage workloads. The fourth-generation Azure D-series and E-series virtual machines previewed at the Rome launch in August are now generally available. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Intel’s New Hyderabad Design Center Targets Exascale Era Technologies

December 3, 2019

Intel's Raja Koduri was in India this week to help launch a new 300,000 square foot design and engineering center in Hyderabad, which will focus on advanced com Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

In Memoriam: Steve Tuecke, Globus Co-founder

November 4, 2019

HPCwire is deeply saddened to report that Steve Tuecke, longtime scientist at Argonne National Lab and University of Chicago, has passed away at age 52. Tuecke Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

IBM Debuts IC922 Power Server for AI Inferencing and Data Management

January 28, 2020

IBM today launched a Power9-based inference server – the IC922 – that features up to six Nvidia T4 GPUs, PCIe Gen 4 and OpenCAPI connectivity, and can accom Read more…

By John Russell

Cray Debuts ClusterStor E1000 Finishing Remake of Portfolio for ‘Exascale Era’

October 30, 2019

Cray, now owned by HPE, today introduced the ClusterStor E1000 storage platform, which leverages Cray software and mixes hard disk drives (HDD) and flash memory Read more…

By John Russell

D-Wave’s Path to 5000 Qubits; Google’s Quantum Supremacy Claim

September 24, 2019

On the heels of IBM’s quantum news last week come two more quantum items. D-Wave Systems today announced the name of its forthcoming 5000-qubit system, Advantage (yes the name choice isn’t serendipity), at its user conference being held this week in Newport, RI. Read more…

By John Russell

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!
Share This