First steps towards building a ‘Women in HPC’ community in Australasia

Last October, as part of the eResearch Australasia 2019 conference in Brisbane, a Birds-of-a-Feather session was hosted to explore interest in establishing an Australasian Chapter of Women in High Performance Computing (WHPC). WHPC is an international organisation with the vision to provide knowledge, fellowship, and support to women working in the global HPC community, and the organizations that employ them.

The session was led by Jana Makar and Megan Guidry from New Zealand eScience Infrastructure, and Kerri Wait from Monash University.

Following a quick icebreaker activity to build some connections amongst the group, discussion turned to some of the personal experiences and perspectives each participant had within their HPC community. A ‘personal journey’ activity had participants reflect on and share how positive and/or negative or challenging experiences have influenced their personal career paths in HPC from start to the present day.

Examples of these experiences included:

  • Times participants felt included / appreciated

    • Changing or moving upwards in career
    • Kicking off a new business
    • Joining WHPC and other communities such as the Research Software Engineers (RSE) community
    • Giving back (ie. mentorship)
    • Having / doing fulfilling work
    • Being surrounded by / connected with supportive people
  • Times participants felt excluded / isolated

    • Experiencing harassment
    • Having ideas or contributions dismissed
    • Being pushed out of or not considered for jobs
    • Being pushed into wrong or unintended roles
    • Communications styles
    • Scope creep within roles / tasks
    • Ethnic bias

It was an insightful and eye-opening discussion, and provided an excellent segue into how an Australasian Chapter of WHPC could possibly help address the challenges, but also better support and celebrate the positives.

In general, everyone in attendance at the BoF was in favour of pursuing the effort to establish a WHPC Chapter, and to better align and coordinate any existing community-building, networking, and skill-building activities for women in New Zealand and Australia’s HPC and eResearch sectors.

Acting on that vote of support, the BoF organisers and Australasian eResearch Organisations (AeRO) submitted an application to WHPC’s Call for new Chapters, and expect to hear back on its status within the next few months.

In the meantime, a small working group has formed to maintain the momentum started at the BoF, and begin building a more connected community for women in HPC within the Australian and New Zealand HPC and eResearch sectors. The members of this working group currently include:

  • Aditi Subramanya, Marketing & Events Officer, Pawsey Supercomputing Centre
  • Jana Makar, Communications Manager, NeSI
  • Kerri Wait, HPC Consultant, Monash University
  • Loretta Davis, Executive Officer, AeRO
  • Megan Guidry, Research Communities Advisor, NeSI
  • Sam Moskwa, CEO, AeRO

This Diversity & Inclusion space in the AeRO Chat platform will be our main communications hub for sharing updates related to the WHPC Chapter establishment, as well as highlighting or starting other initiatives that bridge gaps or better connect women in HPC and eResearch within our regions. Anyone is welcome to contribute to these conversations and this space. Please use this forum as a place to connect, share, and discuss.

Offline, we encourage HPC and eResearch events in Australia and New Zealand to host face-to-face opportunities for strengthening and building this community through BoFs, panels, workshops, and/or networking events. Please contact a member of our working group if you’d like assistance with building a session.

Upcoming WHPC-related sessions happening at New Zealand and Australia events we know of to date include:

  • NeSI will be hosting another WHPC BoF at eResearch NZ 2020 (12-14 February 2020, Dunedin, NZ - registration still open!)
  • The working group is preparing a submission to host a WHPC-focused session at CUG 2020 (3-7 May 2020, Auckland, NZ)

Are you planning an event with a women in HPC or eResearch focus? Share the details and we’d be happy to help advertise it across this channel!

Also, don’t forget that WHPC is hosting its first annual Summit in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada on April 29 - May 01. Details can be found here and registration is open! If anyone from New Zealand or Australia is planning to attend, please let us know and we’d love to get a recap of your experience shared here!

We look forward to growing this community with you. If you have any suggestions, requests, or general comments, please feel free to share them via this forum, or reach out directly to a working group member.