Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Secrets, lies, women and money: the definitive summary of SC16 - Part 2

I'm usually not shy of speaking my opinions (if you read Part 1 of my summary of SC16, then you’ll know that marketing departments through the land of HPC are busy taking my name off their Christmas card lists 😀), but this Part 2 blog is probably sticking my neck out even further than normal, with some potentially uncomfortable opinions.

SC is arguably the main event of the year for the HPC/supercomputing community. And so it becomes an annual cauldron, relentlessly bubbling to the surface those issues that are most topical for the HPC world. In 2016, two of those issues were women and money.


2016 was the year, I think, that the theme of diversity in the HPC workforce broke forth to be acknowledged as a fundamental issue that affects HPC. Isolated appeals have been trying to raise the diversity failure and opportunity for several years. But it was only in 2016 that the efforts of a persistent few gained momentum, brought focus, and dragged the issue into the center of the HPC community's self-awareness. And, equally importantly, a sufficient proportion of the HPC community was finally willing to see the glaringly obvious and maybe even do something about it.

In essence, the issue is simple: the HPC workforce - from new entrants to leaders - is numerically dominated by white men. Yep, that includes me too. And the leadership roles are dominated by older white men. (I don't think I'm "older" yet - although I guess that is relative.)

So what?