Increasing workforce diversity
06 Feb 2017



Alison Kennedy, Director of the Hartree Centre, discusses the importance of diversity and equality in the workforce.


​​Credit: STFC​


​During the recent European HPC Summit Week in Prague, as Chair of the Board of Directors of PRACE (the Partnership for Advanced Computing in Europe), I presented the inaugural PRACE Ada Lovelace Award for HPC to a woman in Europe who fulfils a number of criteria. Obviously, scientific excellence is key, but the ability to talk about the impact of her scientific research and to act as a role model to young people considering a career in HPC or big data is also very important.The amount of interest in this award shows that gender diversity in science and technology is still a very hot topic.

We know that there is a massive skills shortage in HPC and data science worldwide, and research shows that the most successful and innovative research teams are mixed gender teams.

Many of the research areas that are of increasing importance in HPC and big data are science areas where women form the majority(or at least a substantial minority) of undergraduates; life sciences, environmental sciences and medicine, for example. Although women are not taking up roles in computational science research in these disciplines in as large numbers as might be expected.

One of my ambitions for Hartree is to increase the diversity of the workforce. We are operating in a very collaborative environment; assembling cross-disciplinary teams of researchers and technologists to work with industry on a range of business challenges. Women are typically the decision makers in many areas of purchasing and the principal users of many consumer products. It’s entirely appropriate for us to look to increase their involvement in the project teams that are striving to deliver better products, faster and at lower cost, to provide the UK with a 12-18 month business advantage.

As I looked around the HPC Summit Week meetings and compared attendance with previous meetings in the series, I saw that the proportion of attendees who are women is growing year on year, as is the proportion of women speakers.

The visibility of woman in HPC and big data at external events is important and this is another area where Hartree is being proactive. Our team of seven at the International Supercomputing Conference in Frankfurt in June (ISC16) will contain four women and three men – representatives chosen not for their gender but for their value (as technical, communications and business development professionals) in promoting the Hartree Centre and explaining our mission and achievements to the wider world.

Alison Kennedy, Director of the Hartree Centre

Find out more about the Ada Lovelace Award.