Acknowledging Women’s Success—in HPC and Beyond

Guest blog by: Nadine Horner, External Relations Officer for Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and T.R. Girill, Visiting Scientist at LLNL.

In October, 2013, the Women’s Association (LLLWA) at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (California, USA) began a project to recognize the sometimes neglected technical and administrative achievements of the lab’s women staff members (many of whom are active in HPC).  The goals were not external publicity for the institution (the point of ordinary press releases) but rather to:

  • Encourage successful women even if others have overlooked their accomplishments
  • Promote networking and mentoring by allowing everyone at LLNL to discover and connect with those succeeding professionally
  • Inspire others to emulate these exemplary achievements with greater confidence themselves.

This “Applauds Project,” launched by Nadine Horner ( during her term as LLLWA president, sends each target woman a personalized acknowledgement message by e-mail and, unless she prefers not, also posts a short version of that note on the LLLWA Labbook (internal Facebook) page to share with the entire LLNL community.  (A typical message might say “Congratulations on earning a Tier-2 CPU-Hour award in this year’s Computing Grand Challenge for your xxx project.”)  An Applaud Message is never just stock text, but instead always reflects the unique scientific or engineering character of the acknowledged accomplishment.

During its first year, women in the Computation Directorate (about 16% of the technical staff and mostly active in HPC) earned about 30% of all Applaud Messages.   This reflected both their frequent engagement with interesting projects and the Computation Directorate’s especially strong efforts to share information about that work through mailing lists, departmental announcements, and a directorate-wide newsletter.  Typical HPC-related accomplishments included:

  • Software—reporting a modeling analysis in a material-sciences journal
  • Hardware—leading the effort that made Sequoia first on the 2014 Graph 500 list
  • Administrative—coordinating a job-shadow day for local high-school students.

This first-year Applauds trend also revealed something unfortunate, however: the extent to which comparable achievements by women elsewhere at LLNL remained hidden.  So during its second year, inspired by how well this worked for women in HPC, LLLWA expanded its efforts to find and congratulate successful women in all fields.  We actively sought other, more diverse accomplishments by

  • Looking for LLNL women coauthors (including first authors) of technical articles, sometimes in rather obscure journals, as reported in the commercial Web of Science bibliographic service
  • Scanning LLNL’s daily newspaper clipping service to detect staff women contributing to science-based community projects (such as advisory or nonprofit boards)
  • Taking advantage of referrals by attentive LLLWA members about colleague achievements or promotions not otherwise announced.

Now into its third year, LLLWA’s Applauds Project has sent (and posted) over 325 acknowledgements.  LLNL’s HPC women now garner “Applauds” at about the same rate as their percentage of staff, but often for new adventures, such as 2015’s five first-time presenters (not just attendees) at the annual Grace Hopper Conference.  Also, with maturity, we find that about 5 to 10% of the applaud recipients are now repeats (applauded more that once, but for distinct accomplishments usually spread months apart)—an expression in intellectual life of Pareto’s “vital few” principle from economics.

As project creator Nadine Horner notes in retrospect, “The most effective path toward gender equity in the professions is advocacy through action. The inexpensive, direct engagement of the LLLWA Applauds Project that has so effectively encouraged many Livermore women in HPC demonstrates one positive way to support all women at work.”

Nadine_Horner About the Authors: Nadine Horner is the External Relations Officer for Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and T.R. Girill is \a Visiting Scientist at LLNL. Prepared by LLNL under Contract DE-AC52-07NA27344.


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  1. I am pleased to report that March 21, 2016, marks the 126th week of LLLWA’s applauds project, and we have just recognized the 400th accomplishment of Lawrence Livermore professional women (a nice milestone for Women’s History Month).

  2. Today (August 8, 2016) the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory Womens Association posted its 500th acknowledgement of staff women’s professional achievements–to Ruth Kips for her talk on nuclear forensics to a lunch meeting of the Livermore Laboratory Retirees Association. This “applaud” message thus continues and expands the community-building project conceived and launched by Nadine R. Horner in September, 2013.

  3. Today (December 9, 2016), a team of 12 women runners from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, including 3 from Computation, jointly earned the 600th staff-recognition message from the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory Women’s Association for taking first place in the Women’s
    Corporate division of the Napa Valley Ragnar Relay…thus continuing to build a great database of active, successful professional women.

  4. Today (April 5, 2017), the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory Women’s Association announced the employees who received its 2017 scholarship grants to continue their on-going college educations, including 9 women
    (2 in high-performance computing). Together, these women earned the 700th staff-recognition “applaud” from LLLWA, very appropriately marking both the end of Women’s History Month 2017 and another milestone for LLLWA’s career acknowledgement project.

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