Association for Computing Machinery’s Council on Women in Computing (ACM-W) celebrates and advocates the involvement of girls and women in all aspects of computing education and research. It works to raise awareness about the opportunities available for females in the growing field of computer science through a diverse range of programs and services. Expanding globally, ACM-W has reached India, where it seeks to further novel ways for the next generation of females to face today’s problems and challenges.
An ACM-W workshop on the theme “women in computer science and research” was organized on 14th February,2020 during the ACM Annual Event 2020 by the CSE Discipline at IIT Gandhinagar. The event kick-started with a welcome address by Dr. Heena Timani (Chairperson, ACM-W India), during which she highlighted the critical functions of ACM-W. She also explained several programs of this Council in detail, such as the India chapters, Hackathon, the Summer and Winter Schools for girls, Grad Cohort, and scholarships, in the long list of many others.
The first keynote talk was by Dr. Cherri M Pancake (President, ACM), during which she described how ACM-W encourages females to revolutionize the field of CSE research. Sharing her life story, she said that ACM-W is all about being proactive, progressive, patient, strategic, flexible, ready to push oneself to perform the best, able to face challenges head-on, and active change agents, and helps women explore the latest developments in computing.
Next in line was the engaging session by Dr. Arati M. Dixit (Senior Scientist, ARA; Research Associate Professor, NC State University, Raleigh, USA), which shed light on the growing ACM-W leadership team. Now encompassing several regional groups viz., ACM-W North America, ACM-W Europe, and ACM-W South-Pacific Regions, it is in the process of expanding to Africa as well. Dr. Dixit proceeded to explain more about the various scholarships available for girls and women. She also discussed the future possibilities of efficient connections among different student chapters in a particular region.
The invited talk by Dr. Lipika Dey (Principal Scientist, TCS Innovation Lab) on Data Analytics, started with the changing buzz words synonymous with this field. Later followed the discussions on the main challenges of this domain, viz., consistency, explainability, security, reproducibility, and integrity. The session concluded with the message that proper utilization of data analytics can help convert data to information to knowledge. Dr. Dey also advised the females to give their best, utilize all possible opportunities to lead from the front, and adopt a positive outlook on all situations.
One of the most thought-provoking sessions of this workshop was a panel discussion consisting of Dr. Meenakshi D’Souza (Associate Professor, IIIT Bangalore), Dr. Chitra Babu (Professor and HOD, SSN College of Engineering), and Dr. Arati M. Dixit, Dr. Nutan Limaye (Associate Professor, IIT Bombay). They all shared stories of their journeys in computing and the challenges they faced as women (personally and professionally). Talking about the issue of gender ratio in the educational institutes of the country, the panelists advised the female participants on how to carve a niche for themselves and become leaders in computer science.
Dr. Kalika Bali (Principal Researcher, Microsoft Research Lab, India) delivered an enlightening talk on computing technologies that could help in promoting the low resource languages of the country and the globe. She explained the importance of data, techniques, and applications in extending these languages and, hence, enabling efficient networking among communities. Another interesting session by Dr. Joycee Mekie (Assistant Professor, IIT Gandhinagar) provided insights into the world of approximations in computing: what should and shouldn’t undergo approximation in an application, and how so – what sort of algorithms should go into it? How to tune it (accuracy) and where to apply it?
The event came to an end with a valedictory function and a networking session. With an attendance of more than 100 participants – students, researchers, and leading experts, this workshop was a huge success. It proved an excellent platform for women in computer science and allied areas to build discussion forums with some of the most eminent minds in the field of computing education and research. Workshop was successfully completed under great enthusiasm and the encouraging support of Dr. Neeldhara Misra (Assistant Professor IITGN , Dr. Rutvi Shah (Assistant Professor CPICA) and Ms. Apeksha Srivastava (Senior Project Associate, IITGN)