Women in IT Networking at SC (WINS)
The Women in IT Networking at SC (WINS) program was developed as a means for addressing the prevalent gender gap that exists in Information Technology (IT) particularly in the fields of network engineering and high performance computing (HPC).
Originally introduced as a pilot program** at SC15, the program provides mentorship and travel funding for up to five talented early to mid-career women from diverse regions of the U.S. research and education IT community for a true “hands on” experience in the ground-up construction of SCinet, one of the fastest and most advanced computer networks in the world.
SCinet, the Supercomputing Conference’s (SC) dedicated high-performance research network, provides an ideal “apprenticeship” opportunity for engineers and technologists looking for direct access to the most cutting-edge network hardware and software, while working side-by-side with the world’s leading network and software engineers, and the top network technology vendors.
WINS is a joint effort between the Energy Sciences Network (ESnet), the Keystone Initiative for Network Based Education and Research (KINBER), and University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR). It is funded through a National Science Foundation grant* and through Department of Energy funding to ESnet.
A WINning Program
The Women in IT Networking at SC (WINS) program typically seeks qualified female U.S. candidates in their early to mid-career to join the SCinet volunteer workforce for the SC Conference. WINS strives to have diverse representation of organizations and applicant backgrounds in the cohort each year. Selected candidates will receive full travel support and mentoring by well-known engineering experts in the research and education community.
Created each year for the SC Conference, SCinet brings to life a very high-capacity network that supports the revolutionary applications and experiments that are a hallmark of the SC conference. SCinet will link the convention center to research and commercial networks around the world.
The SC Conference Series is dedicated to supporting an inclusive environment. In 2015, SCinet partnered with a team of collaborators to create the SCinet Diversity Program¹, developed as a means of addressing the prevalent gender gap that exists in information technology (IT), particularly in the fields of network engineering and high performance computing. The success of that program led to a three-year award from the National Science Foundation (NSF)2, direct funding from DOE-ESnet and contributions from other project collaborators. WINS is a joint effort between the Energy Sciences Network (ESnet), the Keystone Initiative for Network Based Education and Research (KINBER), the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR), and SCinet.
¹ = NSF 2015 grant #ACI-1440642
² = NSF 2016 grant #ACI-1640987
Since its inception in 2015 the WINS program has selected 34 women to participate in the program, including the WINS Awardees selected in 2020. As a result, the percentage of women participating in SCinet has increased significantly both in the number of women participating and the percentage of women on the SCinet committee in general since the WINS program started. In 2007, 15 of the 105 SCinet volunteers were women, the largest group until 2015. In 2015, 17 of the 122 volunteers were women, with 5 of them from WINS. By SC19, 50 of the 209 volunteers were women with 15 of them from the WINS program. As indicated in Figure 1, the percentage increase in women participating in SCinet has grown to 26% from the 10% participation the year the program started.
Figure 1: Percentage of Women to Total SCinet Volunteers by Year
The WINS program has facilitated return participation by partially funding travel for 7 of the 15 WINS women who have continued to participate in SCinet. In addition, many of the returning WINS participants have taken on leadership roles: 1 in SC17, 4 in SC18, 6 in SC19 and 9 in SC20, as shown in Figure 2.
Figure 2: SCinet Leadership Roles by Year
WINS strives to have a diverse set of applicants, having received over 150 applications from 38 states (Figure 3) with awardees coming from 18 states (Figure 4) representing Higher Education and Community Colleges, tribal school system, DOE National Labs, R&E Networks and for-profit organizations (Figure 5).
Figure 3: WINS Applicants Map
Figure 4: WINS Finalist Map
Figure 5: WINS Finalist Home Organization Type
Through their participation in SCinet, the WINS recipients have developed new and expanded existing technical skills. They have developed communication and presentation skills through the yearly report-out process. With over 20 report-outs on the program to date at a diverse set of regional and national conferences and workshops, the program has not only increased the awareness of the gender gap in IT, but also provided an opportunity for professional development for the WINS participants. The program has successfully partnered with Internet2 on their Inclusivity Initiative (I2I), with multiple WINS recipients granted I2I scholarships for the Internet2 Global Summit or Technology Exchange. Additionally, many RENs now have their own diversity initiatives at least partially inspired and informed by WINS.