News at Princeton

Thursday, Oct. 30, 2014

Multimedia: Student

Women in Theory summer workshop


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Responding to the need for more women in theoretical computer science, Princeton hosted the Women in Theory workshop in June. Read more.


Video Closed Captions

Ruth Fombrun:
For these four days, notable women in the field of theoretical computer science have been invited to give technical talks

Ruth Fombrun:
to graduate and undergraduate students nominated from schools across the globe.

(music)

Ruth Fombrun:
Hi. My name is Ruth Fombrun and we're here at the first-ever Women in Theory summer workshop, hosted at Princeton University's Friend Center.

Ruth Fombrun:
The motivation for the workshop is, first, to provide an invigorating educational program,

Ruth Fombrun:
and second, to unite female theory scholars of different origins, promoting a sense of kinship and camaraderie.

Ruth Fombrun:
The invited speakers consisted of Cynthia Dwork, from Microsoft Research...

Cynthia Dwork:
...the linkage attack is an attack in which we take innocuous data in one set and we use it to identify an individual...

Ruth Fombrun:
and Shuchi Chawla from the University of Wisconsin...

Shuchi Chawla:
...the popular version of this game is known as 'the battle of the sexes,'

Shuchi Chawla:
but in honor of all the women in theory, I decided to only have women in all of the examples in this talk...

Ruth Fombrun:
among several others, with topics ranging from algorithmic mechanical design to instruction on how to give a successful presentation.

Ruth Fombrun:
With the makeup of the workshop participants and speakers consisting solely of women in technical fields, it was the perfect opportunity

Ruth Fombrun:
to gain some insight on the current state of female representation in those scientific areas of academia and industry.

Ruth Fombrun:
Do you feel that women are, as a whole, are well represented in theory?

participant:
No, not at all. I mean, I think, tops, I'll see 10 percent women at a conference. In my department it's actually a lot lower than that.

participant:
To a large extent, people don't take seriously the extent to which having a mentor

participant:
who is also female or also male, if you're a male, makes a difference.

participant:
And even if you take into consideration things other than gender, like if someone who's the same nationality as you, I presume, would make a

participant:
similar difference, that being able to have a connection with somebody on more than sort of a "this person is in my field" level...

Ruth Fombrun:
On the third day of the workshop, a panel discussion on what was termed "the work-life balance"

Ruth Fombrun:
provided a stark contrast to the facts and figures of the technical discussions.

Ruth Fombrun:
The speakers displayed a different side of themselves, putting their emotional guards down to shed light on some sensitive topics

Ruth Fombrun:
revolving around the difficulties of being a woman in a male-dominated circle.

Tal Rubin:
Question number one: Can you have it all? Okay. And, another question is, what is "work-life balance"? And, third question is,

Tal Rubin:
why do woman discuss this topic? Okay? Three questions that I'm just throwing out, and I would like you guys to start.

Cynthia Dwork:
My short take on this is that there is no work-life balance. There's only guilt. The biggest effort is to be present in the moment

Cynthia Dwork:
and to be able to cut off all the other things you need to do and all your other obligations, so that you're not thrashing.

Joan Feigenbaum:
I have since the beginning, like since the beginning of my career, been terribly frustrated with the fact that women talk about this

Joan Feigenbaum:
all the time and men don't. So I really encourage you to forget about work-life. You are not obligated to be balanced. You're really not. Okay?

Joan Feigenbaum:
You should be yourself. You should strive for what you want. That may involve some kind of very broad, broadly directed effort.

Joan Feigenbaum:
It may involve being a total megalomaniac, you know, a totally focused, self-absorbed, driven successful researcher -- and that's good too.

Joan Feigenbaum:
You're entitled to do this. You are not expected to be balanced. At least, you're not expected by me.

Ruth Fombrun:
Outside of the technical talks and panel discussions, the workshop's events also included a banquet and poster session.

Ruth Fombrun:
At the poster session, we had a chance to catch up with some of the presenters and discuss their research.

(music)

Ruth Fombrun:
Many believe that events such as these foster relationships and networks that generally wouldn't form otherwise.

Ruth Fombrun:
Numerous participants, at this workshop even, showed excitement at their first opportunity to join such a large quantity of female peers

Ruth Fombrun:
within the same industry or field. Once again, I'm Ruth Fombrun. Thanks for watching.

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