Women in HPC respond to community feedback for supporting diversity in HPC & eResearch

As part of the eResearch NZ 2021 Conference, the Australasia Chapter of Women in High Performance Computing (WHPC) hosted a Birds-of-a-Feather session to share results from its recent community survey and discuss next steps for the Chapter in 2021. The session was co-hosted by the Chapter's founding organisations: NeSI, National Computational Infrastructure Australia (NCI Australia), Pawsey Supercomputing Centre, Monash University, and Australasian eResearch Organisations (AeRO).

Delivered as a virtual session, we were pleased to be able to host a mix of attendees from communities within New Zealand and Australia, ranging from existing WHPC community members, to those curious to learn more about WHPC, including some male advocates as well.

Following a brief overview of the aims of the global WHPC organization, the BoF attendees were polled on what has drawn them to the WHPC community. The results (pictured in the word cloud below) spoke to many of the values and aspirations of the Australasian Chapter - community, diversity, fellowship, and connection.

A word cloud image of the reasons why people are interested in WHPC. Words include diversity, community, support, etc.

With the Chapter itself still fairly new, a brief recap was shared of the various activities it had led or participated in since the last BoF at eResearch NZ 2020. These included:

  • multiple WHPC-themed sessions presented at eResearch Australasia 2020
  • multiple meetings of the Chapter Organising Committee to finalise the Chapter application for approval by the global WHPC organisation
  • receiving approval by WHPC (October 2020) and officially being recognised as a Chapter
  • hosting a virtual tea as a Chapter kickoff event, timed to coincide with WHPC's Diversity and Inclusion day at the international Supercomputing 2020 conference
  • launching new community connection and communications channels (see below to connect)
  • launching a community survey to help set a course and priorities for the Chapter's activities in 2021

Before diving into the results of the community survey, the BoF attendees were polled on how they would rank the top five ideas/activities that were suggested in the survey. The results (pictured in the word cloud below) indicated most people considered the most important activities to be related to the visibility of women in eResearch and HPC within New Zealand and Australia, networking events, and sharing of training opportunities.

Word cloud of priorities for 2021, as voted by attendees of the session.

Turning to the broader community survey, the rankings were fairly in line with what the community responses indicated as well, with their top priority choices being (in order of importance): 

  • Visibility of women in the AusNZ region
  • Mentor program
  • Sharing job opportunities
  • Sharing training opportunities
  • Networking events

Other activity ideas shared by the respondents included:

  • Encourage NCI and similar facilities to highlight the work of women in HPC, e.g. Through their news on websites and other social media platforms
  • Nomination for awards in relevant categories nationally or internationally
  • Connections to media
    • e.g. a "lite" version of what superstars of STEM does
    • To get them to turn to women experts for stories about computing, etc.
    • Changing the face of who the public sees as experts (and therefore the trickle down effect)
  • Advance coding (e.g. pipelines) and NCI workshops
  • Increasing the visibility of diverse 'faces' at events etc.
  • Share tips on how we/the community can do things better
    • 'How to make your event more inclusive'
    • 'How to ensure your job advert doesn't scare women/diversity away' etc.
  • I liked the WHPC morning tea from eResearch Australasia 2019
    • Would love to see events like that with an inspiring woman headline speaker

From there, the group moved into a general discussion about the survey results, which raised some interesting ideas and approaches around how the activities might be implemented in 2021. These included:

  • Creating 'lighter'/lower-barrier peer mentorship opportunities -- facilitating quick, casual, one-off, 'open office hours' type interactions either alongside or instead of more formal structures that require more time commitment by both the mentor and the mentee
  • Creating a shared database or directory of women in eResearch and HPC that shares interest and availability for opportunities (ie. speaker, mentor, Board / Committee member, volunteer, etc.)
  • Sharing resources and best practice for supporting diversity and inclusion within organisations, communities and events

Related to the last point, the BoF attendees from NCI Australia shared a useful resource created by the Australian Academy of Science and Science in Australia Gender Equity (SAGE): Catalysing Gender Equity Workshop Summaries, with call-outs of key pages:

  • Page 3 - Inclusive and respectful workplaces: attracting and retaining our STEM workforce
  • Page 6 - Fair play in competitive selection and defining ‘merit’
  • Page 7 - Gender equity tools for conferences

It didn't take long for the session to reach its hour time cap, and so it wrapped up with an invite to connect with the WHPC Chapter, to help spread the word of its existence (especially as it begins to roll out its 2021 initiatives), and to watch for more activities during these upcoming events:

Connect with the community


If you have any questions or would like more information on the WHPC Australasian Chapter, email WHPC@aero.edu.au

Meet the Committee

The WHPC Organising Committee is comprised of the following member organisation representatives:

  • Jana Makar and Megan Guidry – New Zealand eScience Infrastructure (NeSI)
  • Lucy Guest, Aidan Muirhead, and Adam Hunter-Koros – National Computational Infrastructure Australia
  • Aditi Subramanya – Pawsey Supercomputing Centre
  • Kerri Wait – Monash University
  • Loretta Davis and Jenni Harrison – AeRO – Australasian eResearch Organisations

(pictured left to right below)