CIUK’s First Women in HPC Breakfast starts with heart

For the first time the Computing Insight UK (CIUK) conference welcomed WHPC volunteers and chapter leaders together in what hopes to become an annual event.  Over two hours CIUK badge holders networked, listened to talks, and engaged in lively discussion around the positive changes needed in order to bring High Performance Computing (HPC) to the next level in diversity and inclusion.

This year’s distinguished speaker, Cristin Merritt of Alces Flight, framed the conference theme of sustainability in terms of people, skills, and change.  Rather than pointing to a specific process of ‘solving’ the diversity and inclusion problem in HPC (and in the wider community of STEM) she utilised community input as well as her experience in attending and facilitating WHPC events to come up with a ‘wall of ideas.’

“People are weird,” Cristin said, “They can’t have a patch installed on their network, or have their code modified.  People will learn differently, behave sometimes irrationally, and cope with change and ideas in ways that defy any type of logic.  This is why there isn’t one specific program to learn, one key metric to gather data on, or one path to follow.  You have to constantly be assessing what works and always keep edging towards improvement.”

The second portion of the event was a panel and group discussion talking about everything from how chapters and affiliates work, to what it is like to volunteer.  As there was a 50% attendance from our male supporters and allies, a robust and meaningful conversation around supporting women and underrepresented groups also took place.  Many of our male supporters spoke of personal experiences including thoughts and feelings on the topic of diversity and inclusion with openness and honesty.  We are incredibly grateful for their insight.

This event was possible due to the efforts of Georgina Ellis, Marion Weinzierl, Karen Stoneham, Cristin Merritt, and Elisabetta Boella.  The breakfast was underwritten by Alces Flight and UKRI STFC.  We are also grateful to Damian Jones for putting the foundation of this event in place.

You can download a copy of Cristin’s presentation here: CIUK22_WHPC_CristinMerritt_Sustainability.  Supporting community insight can be found here: WHPC – CIUK – Defining Sustainability.  Please note, there are some statements within the insight that people may view as offensive.  We have chosen to leave them in as a testament that there is still work to be done in progressing the field of HPC and STEM.