Women's Workshop on Communications and Signal Processing

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Women's Workshop on Communications and Signal Processing

The gender disparity in various disciplines of engineering has been a longstanding issue in the engineering community and IEEE societies alike. While meaningful strides have been taken to increase women’s involvement in STEM fields overall, women are still largely underrepresented in these fields, and especially in higher-ranking and leadership positions. In fact, of the Signal Processing Society’s more than 16,500 members, only 6.6% of them are women. That is why, in conjunction with the Princeton University College of Engineering and Applied Science, the IEEE Communications Society, and other units, SPS supported the Second Women’s Workshop on Communications and Signal Processing (WWCSP) at Princeton University from 16-18 July 2014.

Following a successful inaugural event held in Canada in 2012, the second event was attended by 33 individuals divided among junior and senior participants from academia and industry. While the nature of many women’s engineering workshops focuses on the adversities faced by women in engineering, the WWCSP’s goal was to host a highly technically-driven workshop where women in different careers phases could exchange technical and professional ideas in an open, friendly, and relaxed setting. As such, both junior and senior researchers presented and discussed recent developments in their respective disciplines, fostering vibrant technical dialogue. Junior researchers presented posters, while senior researchers hosted technical talks, making way for cross-disciplinary collaboration between both groups in areas of smart grid, video compression, information theory, and more. A $500 Best Poster Award, supported by the IEEE Communications Society Women in Communication Engineering (WICE), was given to Laura Vertatschitsch’s poster titled “Digital Signal Processing for Event Horizon Telescope.”

In addition to the thorough technical content, the organizers implemented a meaningful social component in the workshop that facilitated valuable networking and mentorship opportunities. Outside of the technical sessions, the women participated in a group hike and a banquet dinner. Furthermore, two interconnected discussions took place – the first, steered by the junior participants, was called “Where Do I Go From Here?” and the second, hosted by the senior attendees, titled “What To Expect.” In the former, younger women engineers were able to raise questions and address concerns regarding career development and advancement. The latter, led by Professor Pamela Cosman, shared the senior researchers’ insights and guidance about the necessary steps and tools to build a successful career in engineering. It was discovered that young women are neither aware of the scope of available opportunities in IEEE society leadership and volunteerism, nor the importance of filling such roles. Increased female involvement across IEEE society leadership is one of the workshop’s long-term goals.

Providing networking opportunities, enabling meaningful mentoring relationships, fostering career development in the early stages, and prioritizing technical content are just some of the ways women engineers are trying to increase their presence and position in the engineering landscape. The next WWCSP will be held in 2016, most likely in an international locale, in the interest of continuing to engage a broader worldwide community of female researchers. For more information about the Second Women’s Workshop on Communications and Signal Processing, visit their website.

Best Poster Winner, Laura Vertatschitsch (Harvard), presents her poster during the 2nd Women’s Workshop on Communication and Signal Processing Technical discussions: Ilknur Aydin (Farmingdale State), Shalinee Kishore (Lehigh), and Nasim Arianpoo (UBC)―left to right―.
Convocation Room at Friend Center, Princeton University, during a poster session. Maite Brandt-Pearce (U. of Virginia) gives a technical talk during the first day of the workshop.
Mahi Abdelbar (Virginia Tech) and Octavia Dobre (Memorial) during poster session. Anna Scaglione (UC-Davis) gives her invited talk.
Pirathayini Srikantha (U of Toronto) presenting her poster to Maite Brandt-Pearce (U. of Virginia) during the poster session. Group photo from the Second Workshop on Communications and Signal Processing.

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