Originally published in HPCWire, October 15, 2018
High-performance computing (HPC) has a well-known diversity problem, and groups such as Women in HPC are working to address it. But while the diversity challenge crosses the science and technology spectrum, it is especially acute in areas of HPC where breakthroughs are driven by extracting insights from data. The deluge of data, with the convergence of simulation and artificial intelligence (AI) workloads, and the development of exascale computers, will all increase the opportunities to generate data and derive value from it.
Taking advantage of those opportunities is not just a matter of adding more bodies, although that’s part of the solution. There is also a specific need for a highly diverse workforce to create next-generation data models and design the machine learning (ML) applications that will yield transformative value from the available data. Teams that represent different perspectives are likely to produce more robust ML models that reflect all aspects of a problem. As Trish Damkroger, Intel’s vice president and general manager of extreme computing, says, “Inclusion is the foundation of high performance and innovative teams. We believe that in order to shape the future of emerging fields like data and computational science, we must bring together individuals with a wide range of perspectives, backgrounds, and experiences.”
Research supports Damkroger’s perspective. Teams with diversity across the lines of gender, race, ethnicity, and sexual orientation show higher levels of creativity and produce more innovative solutions, according to Katherine Phillips, a professor at the Columbia University Business School. Phillips has also found that members of diverse teams tend to sharpen their own and each other’s thinking, resulting in more rigorous problem-solving.
Women in Big Data
One group that’s addressing the need to build an inclusive workforce for analytics and AI is Women in Big Data (WiBD). This industry initiative got its start in 2015 at Intel, shortly after the company had established its $300 million Diversity in Technology Initiative. Noting that women were significantly underrepresented in the company’s big data technologies area, an Intel team reached out to some of the company’s big data partners in the Bay Area to see how widespread the problem was.
About the Author
Jan Rowell is a freelance writer based in the Portland, Oregon area. She focuses on technology trends and impacts in HPC, healthcare, and other industries.