Three years ago in May 2012, as Terry Benzel, Deputy Director, Computer Networks Division, Information Sciences Institute at USC, Hilarie Orman, The Purple Streak (a software security firm), and I, Susan, then a visiting scholar at Harvard, sat at the IEEE Symposium on Security and Privacy, we had trouble seeing any other women. As women researchers in security and privacy of a certain age, we were accustomed to that. But we were not accustomed to the original proposal for the program committee for the following year’s program committee: forty men, two women. We looked at each other. There was not “world enough and time” to wait for the situation to change; we needed to take action now.
Computing Research News
“Expanding the Pipeline” is a regular column in Computing Research News. The column serves both as a vehicle for describing projects and issues related to women and underrepresented groups in computing. The column is guest-authored by individuals who share their insight and experiences from their active participation in programs designed to involve women, minorities, and persons with disabilities in education and research. Patty Lopez is the column editor.
Every computer science graduate student learns early in their career which publication venues best match their research interests and where the best work in their area is appearing. These conferences are your research home. Every year, you should endeavor to submit, attend, network, and read the papers in these venues. For example, because I work in programming language design and implementation, I regularly read, attend, and submit to PLDI, OOPSLA, and ASPLOS. These activities build research expertise, expose you to new ideas and methodologies, help you focus your research efforts on important problems, and integrate you into your research community (Matthews, 2014).
The 2014 Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, held in Phoenix from Oct. 8th – 10th, hit several milestones this year. First, conference attendance dramatically increased to 8000 attendees from 4700 in 2013. Also, the first-ever Male Allies plenary panel, with top executives from Google, Facebook, GoDaddy, and Intuit, occurred; this panel was a well-intentioned session, but created more controversy among the attendees than the Grace Hopper Conference attendees have ever seen. And with a remark during his keynote, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella made the issue of pay equality for men and women front page news and brought the conference to the attention of the world. These milestones led to several interesting hallway conversations, some of which verged on arguments with significantly different points of view. One thing was clear, however; most of the attendees (perhaps all) agree that we need men (and women) to solve the diversity challenges that exist. So kudos to Satya and the other top male executives for having the interest and courage to come to an event that is 95% female. And further kudos to the companies that are implementing changes in their organizations based on what transpired during this year’s Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing. Until women represent close to 50% of those in the computing industry, we need to continue these important conversations.
At AAAI-13, several attendees remarked that the number of women and underrepresented minorities in attendance seemed even lower than in previous years, and they started talking about what could be done. So for 2014, with the encouragement of AAAI and financial support from the CRA-W and Coalition to Diversify Computing (CDC) through the Discipline Specific Workshops program, we – Maria Gini, Adele Howe, Monica Anderson, and Andrea Danyluk – organized a set of activities aimed at increasing the number of women and members of other underrepresented groups in AI by encouraging and mentoring students and post-docs.
Nancy Amato, Unocal Professor of Computer Science and Engineering at Texas A&M University, has had a banner year. She is the recipient of two prestigious awards for mentoring, the Habermann and the Harrold/Notkin awards, elected to the CRA Board, and will shortly be CRA-W Co-chair. She exemplifies teaching, research and service excellence in computing.
The CRA-W Borg Early Career Award (BECA) is named in honor of the late Anita Borg, who was an early member of CRA-W and an inspiration for her commitment to increasing the participation of women in computing research. BECA targets women who are relatively early in their careers (at most 8 years post-PhD) with the goal of encouraging active contributions to helping increase the number of women in the computer science and engineering research community. The annual award is given to a woman in computer science and/or engineering who has made significant research contributions and who has contributed to her profession, especially in outreach to women. The award recognizes researchers in both academic and industrial/government research lab settings who have had a positive and significant impact on advancing women in the computing research community while serving as exemplary role models.
CRA-W hosted its 11th annual Grad Cohort in Santa Clara, California on April 11 and 12, 2014. Grad Cohort is a two-day workshop that seeks to improve the success and retention of women in computing research. Senior women advise graduate students on research skills, publishing, career stages, internships, networking, and collaborations with presentations, panels, individual mentoring, and by creating professional social networks.
In the last 10 years, the computing community has started paying more attention to the lack of gender diversity in the field. There have been myriad programs introduced to amend the problem, including awareness-raising campaigns, out-of-school and in-school courses, workshops, and camps. At the national level, there are policy movements to include computer science as a high school graduation requirement, new recruitment practices and other organizational reforms introduced at the university and industry levels, and more. Many of these movements have been evaluated, and many have shown promise that they have, or will, make a difference in their local context. However, to understand whether or not all of these interventions, taken together, have actually “moved the needle,” we need to review the longitudinal data. How have girls’ and women’s representation in computing at the various levels changed, if at all, over time? And are we seeing any positive trends?
On February 10-11, 2014, Clemson University catapulted to the forefront of efforts to broaden participation in discipline specific domains. Clemson Computing and Information Technology Department hosted the 1st CRA-W/CDC Broadening Participation in Visualization Workshop (citi.clemson.edu/bpviz2014). The workshop was held at Clemson University in Clemson, South Carolina. This herculean effort of organizing and planning was met with lofty goals, and logistical intricacies that culminated in success, despite the rare hiccup by Mother Nature affectionately known as the polar vortex.
The 2014 ACM Richard Tapia Celebration of Diversity in Computing Conference was held in Seattle, WA, February 5-8, 2014. The conference is the premier event for the Coalition to Diversity Computing (CDC) and presented by CMD-IT. The conference is now in its eighth year but it is now on a yearly cycle. The goal is to bring together a diverse group of technical leaders to lead discussions in the state-of-the art in computing and technology. The Tapia conference has a tradition of providing a supportive networking environment for under-represented groups of students and professionals, across the broad range of computing and information technology, from science to business to the arts to infrastructure.
On April 11-12, the 1st National Women in Cybersecurity (WiCyS) conference (http://www.wicys.net) to be held in Nashville, Tennessee, will provide an exclusive opportunity to bring together women students, faculty, professionals, and researchers in cybersecurity from academia, industry, research, and government organizations in efforts aimed at increasing the pipeline of women security professionals and improving the diversity of our cybersecurity workforce.