STEM Gender Gap: Supercomputing Experts Advise Strength in Diversity, Mentorships and Open Reporting

SALT LAKE CITY–(BUSINESS WIRE)–#ComputerScience–Men still outnumber women in STEM training and employment, and
engineering leaders are working to bring awareness to that diversity gap
and the opportunities it presents.

According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, only 29% of STEM jobs are
held by women, although women comprise more than half of the national
workforce. The gender disparity has narrowed only slightly over the past
two decades, and applies especially to working engineers in all STEM

In fact, according to the National Science Foundation’s Science &
Engineering 2016 report:

• Only 15% of engineers in the workforce are female; only 8% of
mechanical engineers, and only 11-12% of computer hardware engineers,
and aerospace/aeronautical/astronautical engineers;

• Only 25% of computer and mathematical scientists are female; and

• Only 30% of physical scientists are female.

This lack of diversity presents a unique opportunity for both
organizations and women in the field.

“Every organization benefits when its teams feature people with diverse
and varied skill sets and sensibilities,” said John West, Supercomputing
2016 (SC16) General Chair from the Texas Advanced Computing Center, and
one of the main people behind SC16, the premier international conference
for high performance computing, networking, storage and analysis. “Our
members span across most major industries and professions, and as an
organization we are leading by example in the gender diversity arena,”
West said. As of this year, 64% of the SC16 organizational leadership
team is made up of women.

“Engineers solve problems. To do that, we must look at what we study
from a wide variety of vantage points. The wider the range of
perspectives my teams can deliver, the better equipped they are to
succeed,” said Trish Damkroger, Acting Associate Director for
Computation at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) and one of
the members of the SC16 leadership team. Damkroger leads a
1,000-employee workforce enabling scientific discovery through
large-scale computational analysis, visualization, and mathematical
modeling. She also leads the SC16 Diversity team for 2016.

“SC16 is making a practice of openly sharing our data on diversity in
our profession, and calling upon all organizations to look at the
diversity landscape and publish that data,” Damkroger said. “Of course,
we are supporting programs that empower more girls to study and pursue
STEM degrees and careers. Getting more girls through the educational and
training pipeline is a great first step, but it’s just the beginning,”
she said. “We need leaders who place a high priority on retention of
diverse talent—managers who are flexible and creative enough to
cultivate workplace environments that are welcoming to people who want
lucrative, rewarding, stimulating science careers but also want to have
meaningful and rewarding lives outside of science.”

“Within the Computation’s Directorate at LLNL, we have focused pipelines
for both high performance computing and data science. This year we are
starting Girls Who Code clubs with the local middle schools and high
schools to lower the barrier of computing. Retaining employees is
challenging in the Silicon Valley. We stress a family friendly work
environment which is important to all employees. This includes flexible
work schedules, work at home arrangements including out of state, and
professional development opportunities,” Damkroger said.

Adaptive work environments are one way to cultivate diversity. But an
emphasis on mentorship can go a long way, too, according to Jeanine
Cook, another SC16 leader who has enjoyed a long, accomplished
engineering career.

“We are seeing more women pursue undergraduate, graduate and doctoral
degrees in STEM fields, but so far that marginally larger pool of
diverse candidates has not always translated to more employed engineers
long-term,” said Students@SC Chair Jeanine Cook from Sandia National

“When my students seek advice for their career paths, I always recommend
that they make a high priority of finding good mentors—people who will
help them see the path forward around potential career obstacles and
encourage them along the way,” Cook said. “I have benefited tremendously
from some accomplished and generous mentors, and now pay that forward
with my own relationships with young professionals who are just getting

In particular, the Students@SC program has a number of components aimed
at introducing a diverse group of more than 200 students to HPC by
serving as volunteers to support the conference, a program for helping
undergrads conduct HPC research, and a Mentor-Protégé Program to match
students with professional staff attending SC16. Lastly, all students
and post-docs attending SC16 are invited to attend a job fair, expected
to feature nearly 50 industry and research organizations.

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About SC16

SC16, the International Conference for High Performance Computing,,
sponsored by ACM and IEEE-CS offers a complete technical education
program and exhibition to showcase the many ways high performance
computing, networking, storage and analysis lead to advances in
scientific discovery, research, education and commerce. This premier
international conference includes a globally attended technical program,
workshops, tutorials, a world class exhibit area, demonstrations and
opportunities for hands-on learning.


Brian Ban, 773-454-7423