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CERN openlab CTO co-founds Swiss chapter of Women in High-Performance Computing advocacy group


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The four founders of the new chapter of Women in HPC, photographed during a special networking session at last year’s Platform for Advanced Scientific Computing (PASC22) Conference in Basel, Switzerland. (Image: CERN)

CERN openlab’s Chief Technology Officer, Maria Girone, is one of four founding members of a new Swiss chapter of the Women in HPC (WHPC) advocacy group. The announcement comes on the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, which is dedicated to reducing gender disparity in all research fields and at all levels of scientific endeavour.

Women in HPC works to reduce this gender gap in high-performance computing, or “HPC”. Founded in 2014 at the University of Edinburgh Parallel Computing Centre, Women in HPC organises awareness-raising workshops and provides support and mentorship for women working in this field.

Maria Girone’s fellow co-founders of the new Swiss chapter of the organisation are Florina Ciorba of the University of Basel in Switzerland, Sadaf Alam of the University of Bristol in the UK and formerly of the Swiss National Computing Centre (CSCS), and Marie-Christine Sawley of the International Centre for Earth Simulation and formerly of both the CMS experiment and Intel (a long-standing CERN openlab partner company). They have since been joined by Cerlane Leong of CSCS, too.

This chapter is underpinned by a Swiss association called ideas4HPC, which was also created by the leading female computer scientists listed above, with Marie-Christine Sawley as President. The team members have seven main goals:

  1. Building a diverse and inclusive HPC workforce
  2. Promoting the benefits of inclusivity
  3. Raising awareness of the under-representation of women in HPC
  4. Highlighting diversity and inclusivity initiatives
  5. Raising the visibility of women role models in HPC
  6. Helping members of under-represented groups in HPC to build their professional networks
  7. Inspiring key stakeholders in the HPC community to embrace diversity and inclusivity initiatives.

Over the next three years, the founders of this new chapter and association will create targeted scholarships, provide financial support for participation in top conferences, run training sessions for mentors, and organise events promoting inclusivity and diversity in HPC. One of the first events organised under this new chapter will be a workshop at the Platform for Advanced Scientific Computing Conference (PASC23) in Davos, Switzerland, in June.

“We are very excited to welcome a new Swiss chapter to the WHPC family,” says Cristin Merritt, Business Management Executive for WHPC. “WHPC chapters provide a very accessible option for women and allies to find support and engage with the under-representation of women in scientific computing.” She continues: “The Swiss team has a fantastic track record in supporting Women in HPC and promoting opportunities for women in computational science. We look forward to working with the Swiss chapter and all of the other WHPC chapters over the coming years towards the WHPC mission.”

“I have always been passionate about equity, diversity and inclusion,” says Maria Girone, who is Vice-President of the new association and was also recently appointed as one of the two diversity and inclusion officers for the CERN IT department. “We’ve come a long way, but there is still a lot to be done. The creation of this chapter and association is an important concrete action for supporting women and under-represented minorities in HPC, particularly in the key early stages of their careers.”

You can find out more about work at CERN to reduce the gender gap in science on the website of the CERN Diversity and Inclusion programme. There you will also find information on the Organization’s efforts to improve other aspects of diversity.