Diversity & Inclusion

Valuing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Our Computing Community

Panel Discussion
Timothy M. Pinkston
Published 03/30/2021
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Joint Session Panel: HPCA’21, CGO’21, PPoPP’21, CC’21

March 3, 2021


At this year’s virtually co-located HPCA’21, PPoPP’21, CGO’21, and CC’21 conferences, a 1.5 hour joint session panel across all four conferences on the topic of “Valuing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Our Computing Community” occurred on March 3, 2021, sponsored by the USC Viterbi School of Engineering. Panel sponsorship allowed attending the panel to be free of charge to the public, enabling broader access to the larger computing community beyond those registered for the conferences. While this was only the second main program session in these conferences’ history that focused on a topic related to diversity and broadening participation in computing generally, and possibly the only other time a main program session was devoted to a diversity-related topic at any of the major computer architecture conferences, the hope is it will not be the last there or at other major conferences in the computing field more broadly.

“Valuing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Our Computing Community”


There is a movement occurring broadly across many scientific and engineering fields, including widely within our computing community, toward making tangible progress through intentional actions and interventions for advancing and valuing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). There is also a movement toward dismantling structural and/or systemic factors—especially but not limited to racial and gender biases—that may be standing in the way of making much needed progress in advancing and valuing DEI fully. Similar to other technical fields, the computing community is faced with a key question: What more can and should be done? The purpose of the DEI panel (full description found on ACM and video recording available here) was to discuss this and other important questions, including the following: Apart from academia, what role can and should the computing industry and corporate world play in making real differences? What additional proactive efforts might our professional societies, technical committees (TCs), special interest groups (SIGs), and other organizations initiate and lead to meet our aspirational goals? What actionable steps might every member of our computing community take individually to contribute to this worthy cause, within their own spheres of influence? What are the major hurdles standing in the way of progress and how might the hurdles be overcome?

Several important observations came from the panel discussion, including the following. The lack of a diverse workforce sets us behind in being able to approach problems from wide ranging and useful perspectives. It is a false narrative that excellence is somehow compromised by diversity when, in reality, it’s just the opposite: excellence is enhanced by diversity—according to the panel moderator, Timothy Pinkston. “Without the engagement of diverse thinking and perspectives brought to bear on addressing challenging engineering and computing problems that broadly affect and are pervasive to many segments of our society, how can the best and most creative solutions be discovered and applied for the benefit of all humanity? Likewise, if many segments of our society’s population are not equitably included and engaged in opportunities and access for making and benefiting from technological contributions, how can our society as a whole make significant progress toward reaching its full potential?” These questions—and the responses to them as discussed at the panel—speak to the importance of valuing diversity, equity, and inclusion in our engineering and computing fields. They also speak to the important role that all of us in the computing community can and should play in further advancing diversity, equity and inclusion.

While the DEI panel helped to initiate and stimulate serious discussion by our computing community on this important topic, needed next steps are to continue the discussion and to take tangible actions by all members of our technical community. This is being facilitated by the IEEE Computer Society’s Diversity & Inclusion Committee which has launched a DEI survey on their webpage. The idea behind this is to collect responses from members of the technical community which identify activities and useful actions that can influence the work this Committee and can also be shared with the broader computing community for making measurable progress in bringing about continual, significant, and sustained change to enable gainful strides in further valuing diversity, equity and inclusion within our computing community and beyond.


The Panelists

The DEI panel was comprised of the following distinguished and world-renowned technical leaders in computing: Bill Dally, NVIDIA Chief Scientist and Senior Vice President of Research, and former Stanford Professor; Kim Hazelwood, West Coast Head of Engineering at Facebook AI Research, and CRA Board Member; John L. Hennessey, Stanford Professor and former President, current Chairman of Alphabet, and 2017 Turing Awardee; Natalie Enright Jerger, U. of Toronto Professor, and ACM’s Council on Diversity and Inclusion Co-Chair; Margaret Martonosi, Princeton Professor and NSF Assistant Director of CISE; and David Patterson, U.C. Berkeley Professor, Google Distinguished Engineer, and 2017 Turing Awardee. The panel was organized and moderated by Timothy M. Pinkston, USC Professor and Vice Dean, CRA Board Member, and Fellow of the AAAS, ACM, and IEEE.

John L. Hennessy, Stanford Professor and Chairman of Alphabet, National Academy of Engineering member, 2017 ACM Turing Awardee

John L. HennessyBio: John L. Hennessy is the James F. and Mary Lynn Gibbons Professor of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering in the Stanford School of Engineering, and the Shriram Family Director of Stanford’s Knight-Hennessy Scholars, the largest fully endowed graduate-level scholarship program in the world. He is chairman of Alphabet and serves as a trustee of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. Formerly the tenth president of Stanford, he is also a computer scientist who co-founded MIPS Computer Systems and Atheros Communications. John is the coauthor (with David Patterson) of two internationally used textbooks in computer architecture. His honors include the 2012 Medal of Honor of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and the 2017 ACM A.M. Turing Award (jointly with David Patterson). John earned his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Villanova University and his master’s and doctoral degrees in computer science from the Stony Brook University.


David Patterson, Berkeley Professor and Google Distinguished Engineer, National Academy of Engineering member, 2017 ACM Turing Awardee

David PattersonBio: David Patterson is a professor of the graduate school at UC Berkeley, a Distinguished Engineer at Google, Vice-Chair of the Board of Directors of the RISC-V Foundation, and Director of the RIOS Lab. He received his BA, MS, and PhD degrees from UCLA.

David’s most successful research projects were likely Reduced Instruction Set Computer (RISC), Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks (RAID), and Network of Workstation (NOW). This research led to many papers and seven books, with the best known being Computer Architecture: A Quantitative Approach, co-authored by John L. Hennessy. His most recent book is The RISC-V Reader: An Open Architecture Atlas, co-authored by Andrew Waterman.

He is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Engineering, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, and the Silicon Valley Engineering Hall of Fame. His teaching was honored with the ACM Karlstrom Award and the IEEE Mulligan Medal. As a past president of ACM and a past Chair of CRA, he received Distinguished Service Awards from both. He served as General Chair of the Tapia Conference and received the Tapia Achievement Award for Scientific Scholarship, Civic Science, and Diversifying Computing. His most recent award is the ACM A.M Turing Award, shared with John L. Hennessy.


Margaret Martonosi, Princeton Professor and NSF Assistant Director of CISE, Fellow of ACM and IEEE, National Academy of Engineering member

Margaret MartonosiBio: Margaret Martonosi is the U.S. National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Assistant Director for Computer and information Science and Engineering (CISE). With an annual budget of more than $1B, the CISE directorate at NSF has the mission to uphold the U.S.’s leadership in scientific discovery and engineering innovation through its support of fundamental research and education in computer and information science and engineering as well as transformative advances in research cyberinfrastructure. While at NSF, Margaret is on leave from Princeton University where she is the Hugh Trumbull Adams ’35 Professor of Computer Science.

Margaret’s research interests are in computer architecture and hardware-software interface issues in both classical and quantum computing systems. She is an elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a Fellow of ACM and IEEE. In addition, she has earned the 2019 SIGARCH Alan D. Berenbaum Distinguished Service Award, the 2018 IEEE Computer Society Technical Achievement Award, and the 2010 Princeton University Graduate Mentoring Award, among other honors.


Bill Dally, NVIDIA Chief Scientist and Senior Vice President of Research, and former Stanford Professor, National Academy of Engineering member

Bill DallyBio: Bill Dally is Chief Scientist at NVIDIA Corporation and former chair of Computer Science at Stanford. He is developing computer systems for demanding applications including machine learning, bioinformatics, and logical inference. He has a history of designing innovative and efficient experimental computing systems. While at Bell Labs, Bill contributed to the BELLMAC32 microprocessor and designed the MARS hardware accelerator. At Caltech, he designed the MOSSIM Simulation Engine and the Torus Routing Chip which pioneered wormhole routing and virtual-channel flow control. At the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, his group built the J-Machine and the M-Machine, experimental parallel computer systems that pioneered the separation of mechanisms from programming models and demonstrated very low overhead synchronization and communication mechanisms. At Stanford University, his group developed the Imagine processor, which introduced the concepts of stream processing and partitioned register organizations, and the Merrimac supercomputer, which led to GPU computing, and the ELM low-power processor. Bill is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Engineering.


Natalie Enright Jerger, U. of Toronto Professor and ACM’s Council on Diversity and Inclusion Co-Chair, Fellow of IEEE and ACM Distinguished Member

Natalie Enright JergerBio: Natalie Enright Jerger is a Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Toronto and holder of the Canada Research Chair in Computer Architecture (and was former holder of the Percy Edward Hart Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering). Prior to joining the University of Toronto, she received her PhD degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison studying computer architecture, co-advised by Mikko Lipasti and Li-Shiuan Peh. She received her Bachelor of Science degree in 2002 from Purdue University.

In 2019, she received the McLean Award from the University of Toronto. In 2015, she was awarded an Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship and the CRA’s Anita Borg Early Career Award. She was the recipient of the 2014 Ontario Professional Engineers Young Engineer Medal. In 2017, she co-authored the second edition of On-Chip Networks, with Tushar Krishna and Li-Shiuan Peh. Her research focuses on networks-on-chip, approximate computing, IoT devices, and hardware acceleration. Beyond research, Natalie is also involved in outreach activities for women in computer architecture, including serving as chair of WICARCH. From 2019-2021, she is serving as the co-chair of ACM’s Council on Diversity and Inclusion. She is a Distinguished Member of the ACM and Fellow of the IEEE.


Kim Hazelwood, West Coast Head of Engineering at Facebook AI Research, CRA Board Member

Kim HazelwoodBio: Kim Hazelwood is the West Coast Head of Engineering at Facebook AI Research. An engineering leader whose expertise lies at the intersection of scalable computer systems and applied machine learning, her roles at Facebook have included multiple engineering organizational leadership roles across Infrastructure and Research. Prior to Facebook, Kim held several positions including Director of Research at Yahoo Labs, Software Engineer in the datacenter division of Google, Research Scientist at Intel, and tenured Associate Professor of Computer Science at the University of Virginia. Kim holds a PhD in Computer Science from Harvard University. She is a recipient of the MIT “Top 35 Innovators under 35″​ award, the ACM SIGPLAN “Test of Time” Award, the CRA’s Anita Borg Early Career Award, and an NSF Career Award. She currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Computing Research Association (CRA).


Panel Moderator

Timothy M. Pinkston, USC Professor and Vice Dean, CRA Board Member and Fellow of AAAS, ACM, IEEE

Timothy M. PinkstonBio: Timothy M. Pinkston is a Professor and holder of the George Pfleger Chair in Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Southern California. He serves as a Vice Dean in the USC Viterbi School of Engineering. Prior to USC, he was a Member of Technical Staff at Bell Laboratories, a Hughes Doctoral Fellow at HRL, and a visiting research at IBM T.J. Watson Research Laboratory. He earned his Bachelor’s from The Ohio State University, and his Master’s and Ph.D. from Stanford University, all in EE.

Timothy founded the SMART Interconnects Group at USC which conducts research on computer systems architecture, with key contributions to deadlock-free adaptive routing, router microarchitecture, and interconnection networks (including on-chip networks) for high-performance and energy-efficient data movement in multiprocessor computer systems. On leave from USC as a Program Director at the NSF (2005-2008), he was the founding Lead Program Director of CISE’s Expeditions in Computing Program. Among his many efforts to broaden participation and development of demographic populations currently underrepresented in STEM fields, Timothy co-organizes CMD-IT’s Annual Academic Workshop for Underrepresented Ethnic Minorities and Persons with Disabilities. He serves on CRA’s Board of Directors and is a Fellow of the AAAS, Fellow of the ACM, and Fellow of the IEEE.