WiMIR Mentoring Program Report 2017: the many faces of diversity


Poster design: Julia Wilkins

Blog post by Anja Volk (Utrecht University), Co-Founder of the WiMIR Mentoring Program

We started the mentoring program in 2016, after many years of regular meetings of the Women in MIR group, which is dedicated to promoting the role of, and increasing opportunities for, women in the MIR field. The mentoring program was founded to connect women students, postdocs, early-stage researchers, industry employees, and faculty to more senior women and men in MIR. The program encourages and supports women in pursuing a career in MIR, raises an awareness on issues often faced by women in our field, and establishes networks between different generations, genders, and disciplines within MIR in academia and industry.

In this second round of the program in 2017, the number of participants has more than doubled. We have asked participants for anonymous feedback on their experience with the program after the closing in June 2017, in order to help the Mentoring Program Committee (Emilia Gómez, Blair Kaneshiro, and Anja Volk) to gain insights into what has worked well or less well for participants. With this blog post we share the outcomes of the mentoring round in 2017 as reflected by participants. We hope to provide a general overview on the benefits of this community effort to increase diversity in MIR, and to give an idea of the gains for individual participants.  


Around 50 mentees signed up for the program, residing in North America, Europe, Asia, and Australia. They ranged from high school student to associate professor, coming from a diverse field of interests and backgrounds, such as digital signal processing, computer music, computer science, music theory, computational musicology, music psychology, music performance, music and mathematics, music perception and cognition, computational ethnomusicology, composition, computational neuroscience, digital media, information science and human computer interaction. Mentors came from equally diverse backgrounds and different stages of career, residing in North America, Europe, Asia, and New Zealand, with roughly 1/3 working in industry and 2/3 in academia. Compared to the first round in 2016, we have seen a strong increase in the number of mentors from industry. As in 2016, an equal number of male and female mentors participated.

Matching procedure

We considered a number of different aspects when establishing the matches, such as general research interest and background, language, time zone, level of seniority, and specific requests from mentees on certain research or career topics. While it was often impossible to find a perfect match on all points, we strived to find the best possible overlap in commonalities. Participants were in general happy with their matches according to the feedback (on a scale between 0 and 5, 87% mentees rated the fitness of their match with a 4 or 5, so did 67% of the mentors). We do feel ready for the next MIREX challenge for helping us to solve this big puzzle: what would be the best algorithm for automatically matching the participants? One big challenge was the difference in time zones, as it is not always possible to find mentor and mentee within the same time zone, or even same continent.  Participants commented that both the commonalities in the matches were helpful, but also the differences for gaining new perspectives, such as discovering how research is organized in different countries.

Mentoring sessions

Participants had signed up for maximal 4 remote meetings in total between January and June 2017, while 42 % of mentees reported 4 and more meetings, others reported fewer meetings.

The following topics have been discussed in the mentoring sessions according to the feedback, with decreasing order of importance:

  • Career paths in academia
  • Career paths in industry
  • Work/life balance
  • Graduate school
  • Dealing with sexism
  • Balancing career with family/children

What did mentees gain

Overall, the mentees were very positive about the mentoring sessions – check out the gratitude wall – and have fun! Mentees reported very different aspects as important gains, from getting a general overview on research in music and technology, to getting a clearer picture on different career options, but also in receiving very concrete help in writing a paper or grant proposal. Here we report some examples on what they have taken home from the program:

  • Cooperation on a conference article
  • Feedback on research
  • Sharing questions and concerns
  • Getting a bigger perspective
  • Better understanding of priority of funders
  • Useful advice about internship
  • Gain a different perspective than those of my immediate colleagues
  • Getting to know a very wide field of research in music and technology fields
  • Better confidence in my abilities and professional options
  • Better understanding of different career paths in industry and academia

Examples of what mentees say about the program:

I saw possibilities and perspectives of people who ‘know better’ about that world in which I’m moving towards to but not quite there.

The gender disproportionality somehow to me brings fear of not choosing a secure career option. The mentorship program has been a confidence booster to me.

The WiMIR mentoring program clearly helps to create a better network among the members of the field, because it introduces people that otherwise would probably have never met.

For more detailed descriptions of benefits for mentees, please check out the blog posts by Stefanie Acevedo, Magdalena Fuentes and Iris Yuping Ren.

What did mentors gain

Many of the mentors indicated that they have taken valuable insights from the conversations, here are some examples:

  • Evaluating their own career path and reflecting on their own priorities
  • Gaining perspectives on struggles and concerns of junior staff in industry
  • Learning about differences in academic systems between North America and Europe
  • Mentees brought new ideas, mentors learnt something new about themselves
  • Good experience that their background and skills are useful for someone else
  • Being inspired by young researchers in the field
  • Gaining a friend

Examples of what mentors say about the program:

There are few things during my academic work day that take less time and have such immediate and longer-term impacts.

It was exciting to me to see my mentee being eager to proudly tell me about new accomplishments and insights and me being proud on these accomplishments as well. I got the feeling that I may have had a positive impact on the mentee and that both sides actually likewise benefited from the mentoring program.

I got to know brilliant people whom I wouldn’t have a chance to know otherwise.

For more: check out the gratitude wall from the mentors, and Ryan Groves’ blog post on the perspective of a mentor!

General feedback on the program

Both mentors and mentees reported a positive overall experience of the mentoring program: 88% of mentees gave it a 4 or 5 (on a scale between 0 and 5); 73% of mentors gave it a 4 or 5. The majority considered the time span between January and June appropriate, though 46% of the mentees and 32% of the mentors would have preferred a longer time span. Some participants reported difficulties in scheduling meetings, sometimes due to time zone differences.

Importance of the program for increasing diversity in MIR

Participants considered the extra support and push for women in our gender-imbalanced area as an important point of the program for increasing diversity, along with the factor of helping to make women in the field more visible, as well as attracting people from other fields who might learn more about MIR through this program. Participants also commented on the potential of the program to provide (male) mentors with a better understanding on how to make their institutions and themselves more accessible and inclusive.

New ideas by participants :

Participants mentioned a number of new ideas in the feedback form, such as

  • Make peer mentoring accessible for mutual support of mentors, such as on discussing papers or proposals
  • Connect mentees with each other through mailing list or chat platforms for exchanging ideas with others in a similar situation
  • Create profiles of women who have participated in the program on website for visibility
  • Get together at conferences, organize local networking
  • Establish contacts to high schools for early information on MIR

Conclusions by mentoring program committee for next round

We are in the process of discussing how to implement the new ideas mentioned by participants. Here are some ideas:

  • Mentors can indicate in sign up form whether they are interested in peer mentoring and what they would be interested in discussing with a peer. We will establish email contact between all mentors who are interested in peer mentoring, including information what they want to discuss, and then mentors can contact each other. Mentors can also indicate whether they would be interested in participating in a forum with other mentors.
  • Mentees can indicate in signup form whether they want to be part of email group or group chat with other mentees on exchanging ideas with peers. We establish the contact between all mentees who are interested, and then leave the mentee group to organize themselves.
  • We need volunteers for creating profiles of women for the website.
  • For anyone being in contact with high schools in their local area, we can provide a Power Point presentation about the mentoring program.
  • If anyone would like to organize a local networking event, please let us know for helping to spread the word about it. 

Note: If anybody has a comment or different suggestion, and wants to get involved in organizing, please contact us at wimir-mentoring@ismir.net.

A note from the program committee

We would like to thank all participants for making this round of the mentoring program happen! The doubts and concerns that are often mentioned by mentees when they sign up for this program — on whether or not there might be a career for them in this field — have been openly discussed in the mentoring sessions. We are happy that this community pays an invaluable contribution of encouragement to meet these concerns. Moreover, participants help to introduce MIR with its different disciplinary facets to people who have sometimes hardly heard about this field before, or to those with a different disciplinary background. Both mentees and mentors appreciated a new perspective on a different discipline, generation, gender, career path, country or continent – as a testament to the fact that “Mentoring is a two-way street” (Steve Washington) which considers many different facets of diversity. Or, as Amy V Beeston has put it in her blog post, we find courage through encouraging others, such that mentoring is a mutual gain. And in our case, we extend the gain to the third dimension of the mentoring program committee: by organizing this program, we provide a frame to be filled in by the participants, as it is up to the mentors and mentees to conceptualize whatever support is helpful in their individual sessions. Learning about the diverse outcomes, new emerging connections and ideas resulting from these individual cases means for us to see our efforts creatively multiplied into all kinds of directions – a moment of great joy, which we would like to share with all participants.

Anja Volk (Utrecht University), holds master degrees in both mathematics and musicology, and a PhD in the field of computational musicology. The results of her research have substantially contributed to areas such as music information retrieval, computational musicology, digital cultural heritage, music cognition, and mathematical music theory.  In 2010 she has been invited to join AcademiaNet: The Portal to Excellent Women Academics. She is founding board member of the International Society for Mathematics and Computation in Music (SMCM).  Between 2013 and 2015 she served as a board member of the International Society for Music Information Retrieval. In 2016 she launched together with Amélie Anglade, Emilia Gómez and Blair Kaneshiro the Women in MIR (WIMIR) Mentoring Program.  She co-organized the launch of the Transactions of the International Society for Music Information Retrieval, the open access journal of the ISMIR society, and is serving as Co-Editor-in-Chief for the journal’s first term.


WiMIR Mentoring 2017 Gratitude Wall


Poster design: Julia Wilkins

This blog post displays notions of mutual gratitude from participants of the WiMIR Mentoring Program in 2017. The program run between January and June 2017, with four remote sessions between mentee and mentor. Participants from North America, Europe, Asia, Australia and New Zealand came from a wide range of disciplinary background in music and technology. With this gratitude wall we share some of the benefits participants have experienced. Thanks everyone who has contributed to this wall! Have fun reading!

Mentees’ gratitude towards mentors

Thank you for your time, enthusiasm, and intelligence in accompanying me in this important transition from student to independent researcher! Your words about the method of work, interdisciplinary connections, and trust for the job search are very important and I am so grateful to you for these. Thank you so much!

Hi A. I see this opportunity to thank you publicly. You have been a great mentor and I will always be thankful to you for your help in making such a huge transition. All those DSP sessions have now enhanced my confidence and I hope to contribute to the MIR domain in the near future. Of course, I am going to continue to have sessions. Thank you once again ! 🙂

I am grateful for my mentor to take time out of his schedule to connect with me.

Thank you very much for taking your time, and for sharing your resources generously!

Thank you so much for your time, patience, answering all my questions and sharing your experience with me. It was a great program and it helped me get a more complete picture of the life after the PhD.

Thanks so much for the sessions! It’s always been a pleasure to talk to you. Very important to have someone’s opinions from the outside world. I learned a lot!

I feel very grateful for being part of the WiMIR program and to have an awesome mentor. It passes on skills, shares experience, and simply doubles the joy during research.

Thank you very much for your time and effort. You helped me in being more secure and better understanding what I was moving towards to. It’s funny how it may seem a simple conversation, but actually has a great effect.

Thank you for generously sharing your time and experience, and for giving me the opportunity to air uncertain thoughts in a low-pressure environment.

Thank you so much for all the advice that you gave me about both my academia and industry path. I truly valued your input as I was choosing a summer internship, and I would not feel confident in my choice without your help. Your openness and willingness to help and discuss anything was much appreciated, and I also loved hearing about your experience at your job and past institutions. I look up to you in many ways an aspire to follow a similar path to yours. You inspire me to want to be a great mentor to another young woman someday! Thanks for everything!

Grateful for the support and the motivation!

Thank you for your great understanding regarding all the doubts and concerns I had (and still have) in relation to a career path and life. Our conversations have been a great comfort and I am very grateful for your advice.

Thanks for being open and helpful from the very beginning!

My mentor was kind, encouraging, and easy to talk to. I could not have asked for a better mentor!

Hi, very glad to know and talk with H. Though I could not go through all the tracks and had short term to discuss our subject, it was impressive enough.

Thank you so much for your encouragement and insight into ways to get more immersed in the field of MIR. You showed me how it’s done.

It was great to talk to him! He’s an outstanding researcher and above all he was very humble and nice in all the meetings. I would like to thank him very much for his patience and time!

Thank you for taking the time to engage me like a colleague, sharing your knowledge and giving support. Your aid was indispensable.

Thank you so much! Having an open mind and willingness to help people is so important and you have truly left an impact. I know now that I will always have someone I can look to for guidance and support and it really means a lot.

Thank you to all who organized this program! It was truly a great experience and allowed me to talk to someone working in the field first-hand.

Thank you to my mentor for helping me explore different career paths within the MIR field.

Mentors’ gratitude towards mentees

Dear mentee, thank you for being my mentee for the last six months. During the course of the mentoring program, we got to know each other bit by bit and found that we do have a lot in common. This made it really easy to talk and to me, our telephone conferences simply flew by. I watched you taking a number of important steps and hope that you continue your path. I hope that you did enjoy it as much as I did and that you could actually gain from the program as much as I did.

Thanks for participating! Keep the good work up 🙂

Thank you for sharing how your love of music performance informs your research!

Thank you for being such an enjoyable companion. I was surprised by how much I looked forward to our discussions, and how quickly they went by.

I am glad that you worked hard to complete an ISMIR manuscript even though it was not ready. Sometime you just need to press on.

Thanks for all of our conversations!

Thank you for different view points and the research directions in Indian classical music.

It was a pleasure talking to a young and motivated student following an academic path.

Thank you for your curiosity and interest!

I’m so glad this initiative exists. Thanks a ton, organizers!

Thank you for your commitment to MIR despite the lack of encouragement from several quarters!

Keep on rockin’ mentee! Keep connected to MIR, and enrich MIR with these new tools you are learning in a neighboring field.

Thank you for your trust and patience while I learn the ropes of being a more effective mentor!

Follow your dreams!

Thank you for the nice chat on the thrilling steps of learning playing music instruments and enjoying music in general. I hope I will see you some day fulfilling your musical dreams!

Thanks so much for the honest, open and good-hearted sharing of experiences, ideas, questions and the occasional doubt. I saw myself reflected on your hopes and concerns more than expected, and I believe the experience not only to improve as a mentor, but as a member of the MIR community too. Thanks!

Thank you for the opportunity to discuss your research and your aspiration on pursuing scientific inquires!

I look forward to mentoring future MIR researchers!


Round 2 of WiMIR travel awards to attend ISMIR 2017 in Suzhou, China

Round 2 of travel awards to attend in Suzhou, China, Oct 23-27 is now open.

We have made a slight adjustment to the timeline for late-breaking demo (LBD) submissions associated with Round 2 of the WiMIR travel awards for the ISMIR2017 conference. Current information is below.
Application form: http://bit.ly/2i5nCpc
Deadline to apply: August 31, 2017
Acceptance notifications: September 8, 2017
Deadline to submit completed LBD draft (for LBD recipients): October 8, 2017
Deadline to complete minor LBD revisions and submit final version (for LBD recipients): October 22, 2017
Eligibility requirements:
– Female author (first or supporting) on accepted full paper; and/or female first author on accepted late-breaking demo (LBD) submission.
– WiMIR applicants do not need to be students.
Questions? Email ismir2017-grants@ismir.net

Convolutional Methods for Music Analysis

Blogpost by Gissel Velarde, researcher in Music Information Retrieval and WiMIR mentor, summarising her PhD work.  

In April this year, I defended my thesis entitled: Convolutional Methods for Music Analysis, available here.

This work introduces convolution, its relevance for perceptual tasks, and its effect on music analysis in applications to music segmentation, pattern discovery and classification. The methodology we have followed was to systematically study and evaluate the effect of convolution (filtering) and other processing techniques together with machine learning algorithms, from k-nearest neighbours, single linkage, support vector machines to convolutional neural networks.

The novel convolution-based methods for music analysis presented in my thesis have been developed together with my supervisors Associate Professor David Meredith, Aalborg University and Senior Lecturer Tillman Weyde City, University of London, as well as in collaboration with researchers from The Austrian Research Institute for Artificial Intelligence: Carlos Cancino Chacón and Maarten Grachten.


Picture of PhD Defense of Gissel Velarde, April 2017, Aalborg University

Gissel Velarde completed her PhD studies in computer science at Aalborg University, supported by a scholarship from the Department of Architecture Design and Media Technology, Aalborg University, and partially supported by the European Commission, FET grant number 610859. She also holds a Masters degree in Electronic Systems and Engineering Management from the Südwestfallen University of Applied Sciences, supported by a DAAD scholarship. Her Licenciatura degree in Systems Engineering was obtained from the Universidad Católica Boliviana. She was a research member of the European Commission Project “Learning to Create” (Lrn2Cre8).

Before dedicating to technology, Velarde studied piano at the Conservatorio Plurinacional de Música in La Paz, Bolivia and won as a pianist, several prices and honors.

During her doctoral studies at Aalborg University, she published research papers on computational methods for music analysis. She was teaching assistant on the Master of Science program in Sound and Music Computing and supervised various projects of the Bachelor program in Medialogy.


Approaching Feminism as a Male Data Scientist

Blog post by WiMIR mentor Ryan Groves, co-founder of Melodrive


Painting Equality used with permission from artist Osnat Tzadok, find original here.

The internet has provided a new platform for an obscene amount of information. Anyone with a computer and a connection can now be heard in the international community. Through the accessibility of information, citizens have become journalists, comedians, celebrities, laughing stocks, community leaders and even scientists just through the means of access to this information tsunami. One particular aspect of this is the ability for marginalized groups to directly confront those who are more privileged, or even perpetrate that marginalization.

I am a man. I had a relatively privileged upbringing–good schools and active parents. When I first started reading about feminism, I had the knee-jerk reaction that most men have: “They couldn’t be talking about me”. Surely I was a more-informed member of the opposite sex. Surely all of my accomplishments were based on my merit, and not on some advantage bestowed unto me. Surely I wasn’t gaining those advantages through the disadvantages of my peers.

As a data scientist, I teach machines how to understand human problems, and to perform human-like solutions. I decided to do what a good data scientist would do–to gather evidence, form a hypothesis, train the model to solve that problem, and test. Only this time, I’d be the subject.

Gathering Evidence

Let’s talk about the elephant in the room: Mansplaining. According to the New Republic [1], the essay that kicked off the whole idea was by the decorated author, Rebecca Solnit, in her piece, “Men Explain Things to Me; Facts Didn’t Get in Their Way”. In it, she says that “the out-and-out confrontational confidence of the totally ignorant is, in my experience, gendered. Men explain things to me, and other women, whether or not they know what they’re talking about. Some men”. Even in my marginally-more-enlightened state, after having opened myself up to this issue, I still find my instinctual male reaction kicking in when I read this sentence, which is to reject this notion outright. But that is exactly the point–why would I not approach this as evidence, as opposed to rejecting it as opinion? The author continues:

Every woman knows what I’m talking about. It’s the presumption that makes it hard, at times, for any woman in any field; that keeps women from speaking up and from being heard when they dare; that crushes young women into silence by indicating, the way harassment on the street does, that this is not their world. It trains us in self-doubt and self-limitation just as it exercises men’s unsupported overconfidence.

As a man, this was initially a foreign idea to me–an issue of which I was totally unaware.

The problem goes beyond Mansplaining. More recently, I read a really insightful blog post by a female engineer & designer, Nikki Lee, titled “Ride Like a Girl”. In it, she relates the experience of living as a woman in a world designed for men to being a biker in a world designed for cars. In it, she says:

Maybe you’ve noticed that cars are kind of scary. They are more or less scary depending on where you live — if you’re on a nice calm street in Seattle, drivers will give you plenty of room and wait patiently for you. Other places, drivers will try to run you off the road. And no matter where you are, you know that the cars around you could really mess you up if something went wrong.


In places with great cycling infrastructure, it’s really easy to get around just as efficiently as driving. But most cities don’t have that. These environments aren’t just not built for you, they’re constructed in a way that actively excludes you.

This analogy really resonated with me, because, like most people, I’ve had this experience while biking. I have indeed witnessed negligent drivers who impose the risk of real physical harm on bikers through their negligence. I have been held to a double-standard by having those same negligent drivers call me out for minor traffic infractions.

In industry, there are plenty of examples of the same disadvantages. I recently attended a Meetup event for gaming and game development in Berlin, and had the honor to hear a talk given by Brie Code. Brie Code is a speaker, writer, and the CEO of a new game studio, Tru Luv Media. She has worked for years in the games industry as a game AI developer and designer. Brie had always found that she had a very different response to games than traditional gamers. As she presents in her blog post on the topic:

[M]ultitudes of white masculine gamers who dominate the games industry have made experiences that are relevant to them but not to most people.

Brie often didn’t feel the “fight-or-flight” response to dangerous in-game situations. When she tried to explain this to other game developers and executives, they would confront her about it, even indicating that her own experience was wrong. Brie decided to do some research into the underlying assumptions that fuel those opinions. The research she discovered was compelling.

The most-commonly-known physiological response to threatening situations in games is fight-or-flight. As Brie Code puts it:

With fight-or-flight, your sympathetic nervous system kicks in and releases adrenaline followed by dopamine. If you like games like this, it’s probably because adrenaline and dopamine are very enjoyable. Your pupils dilate. Your heart beats faster. Your airways open up. And you feel exhilarated. You feel alive. You feel powerful.

Because Brie (as well as many of her friends) did not respond to games in this way, she dug up the psychological research around these responses, and found a completely different, competing response: tend-and-befriend. As Brie describes:

If you experience tend-and-befriend, it’s because your body releases oxytocin or vasopressin when you’re stressed, followed by opioids. This calms your sympathetic nervous system so you don’t get the flood of adrenaline. Instead of wanting to fight or to flee, you stay relatively calm, but aware. Your pupils dilate, you become fearless, and you are less sensitive to pain. You instinctively want to protect your loved ones, to seek out your allies, and to form new alliances. Oxytocin intensifies social feelings, and opioids feel extremely warm and lovely.

Research shows that oxytocin is involved in the physiological response to these threatening situations more-so for women than for men. In order to discover why this tend-and-befriend response was so overlooked, Brie did even more research. Prior to 1995, only 17% of the participants of psychological stress studies were female. In addition, according to an article by Think Progress, a 2014 review of sports and exercise studies showed that only 39% of 6 million participants were women. Brie found that this bias existed in things such as air-bag deployment, or identifying the signs of heart attacks.

However, it’s not only women that respond to games with tend-and-befriend. It seems that there is simply more to the picture than the traditional fight-or-flight response, which is exactly what Brie set out to prove.

Even in the highest office of the (American) land, female staffers were feeling overrun by their male counterparts. So much so, that they devised a strategy of mutual affirmation.

If we’re forming our opinions based on biased information, and excluding opposing opinions, then even what we consider to be fact is potentially false. It certainly seemed there was a common theme in all of these examples, which was succinctly described in the previously-mentioned article by Nikki Lee: These environments aren’t just not built for you, they’re constructed in a way that actively excludes you.

Forming a Hypothesis

I decided to challenge myself. Perhaps, rather than hypothesizing that all of this evidence was untrue, and trying to prove that, I should do exactly the opposite: I chose to hypothesize that all of this was true, and challenged myself to prove that it was.

Training myself to be aware

Since making this decision I’ve tried to be more aware of the issues facing women specifically. But how does one really change her own perspective? It isn’t solvable with a single bout of effort. It needs to be as consistent of an effort as it is for those who are not at a natural advantage in society’s constructed environments–one needs to be as aware as a biker in a city. As has been evident with the recent political happenings in the USA, sources of information can have a huge effect on your thoughts, habits, and perspectives. The two camps for Clinton and Trump were both guilty of consuming information that supported their own perspectives, which was why it was such a rude awakening for the Clinton supporters when Trump was elected. In general, we think of receiving information as a passive process, and in many cases it is hard to avoid consuming certain information. However, there are ways to customize your acquisition of information, and to control the perspectives that you choose to expose yourself to. In effect, you can run your own self-inflicted propaganda campaign.

I also endeavored to prove the hypothesis by gathering my own data. I found there to be ample evidence of the gender-based slights in my daily life. A female coworker filed a sexual harassment complaint, and the whole company was subjected to a sexual harassment seminar–with the glaring exclusion of the offender. Another female colleague was asked her opinion on her area of expertise, only to have them initially reject her opinion outright, and then claim her idea as their own in the final version. In a pickup basketball game, a female teammate suggests reducing the game to 4 on 4, because we only have teams of 5 and 6, and it would be hard for her team (of 5) to be running for the entire game with no substitutes. A man responds, insisting it be 5 on 5, and shouts “we’re men, and we want to run!”.

I’ve even noticed simple micro-aggressions in the academic world. At a recent conference, I walked up to a particular poster presentation in the middle of a conversation between the presenter and a female participant. Immediately, the presenter’s focus shifted from the woman to me, and it was as if the woman was no longer part of the conversation.


With the mounting evidence from both personal experience and outside sources, it seems that gender issues are real, and pose a serious barrier to equal opportunity. So how do I use this gained perspective to make a real change?

Spread the Word

One constructive approach is to evangelize my own personal process, and to encourage other men to change their perspective. It is indeed both genders’ responsibility that people are treated fairly. This blog post is my first attempt at that. But it also involves ongoing discussions and dialogue.


Now that I am convinced of my hypothesis, it’s my responsibility to confront micro-aggressions and unfair treatment that occur in my surroundings.

Continue My Personal Awareness Campaign

My perspective is not perfect, and I don’t expect it ever to be. For the last 2 years, I’ve been a mentor for the Women in MIR (WiMIR) mentoring program. It’s a fantastic initiative that is trying to address some of these gender-based discrepancies in academia, with a specific focus on the MIR (Music Information Retrieval) community. Part of the reason that I like to be a WiMIR mentor is to simply be aware of the issues that women face in the workplace from their perspective, since there are always things that I personally overlook coming from the perspective of the opposite gender.

Build a Positive Work Environment

As a business owner in my capacity of co-founder of Melodrive, I have the unique opportunity to sculpt my own business’ work environment, and it’s my responsibility to create an environment that is as inclusive as possible. Recently, the Augmented Reality company Magic Leap had a lawsuit alleging gender-based discrimination. In the lawsuit, there contains a really thoughtful list of recommendations for a company that wants to be more inclusive (written by Tannen Campbell).

  • Creating “parents’ guides” for cities where Magic Leap had offices, and listing recommended doctors, babysitters, etc. for newcomers
  • Establishing internships for female students to code/build for mixed reality
  • Creating an internal mentorship program pairing men with women;
  • Increasing paternity leave to show that Magic Leap values a man’s role in child caregiving and allows busy moms to return to work sooner if they choose;
  • Tying diversity to extra bonuses, e.g., giving a department head an additional bonus for increasing gender diversity
  • Implementing mandatory “unconscious bias training” for leadership;
  • Demonstrating a commitment to encouraging young girls’ interest in tech education by replacing the “swag”–T-shirts, notebooks and the like–handed out to important visitors with a donation in the important visitor’s name to Girls Who Code, and organization devoted to overcoming the gender gap in tech jobs.
  • Creating and appending an “Equal Pay Guarantee” stamp or seal on all Magic Leap’s position descriptions in recruiting material and elsewhere, evidencing Magic Leap’s commitment to equal pay for equal work within the same tier
  • “Fishing where the fish are” by recruiting employees from a list of colleges, provided by Campbell, with the highest number of women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) departments

With all of these new data points, and my somewhat-improved perspective, it will hopefully be easier to be proactive to create a non-hostile work environment and accommodating employee policies as a small business owner. Additionally, perhaps I’ll be able to move the needle to a society that is more open and inclusive. And while I feel that I have personally made progress in being more in tune with the perspectives of others, I don’t feel that I’ve completed my task. This is an ongoing challenge, just like it is for those who experience disadvantages in their daily lives and beyond.

  1. https://newrepublic.com/article/118555/rebecca-solnits-men-explain-things-me-scourge-mansplaining

Ryan Groves is a computational music theorist, composer and data scientist. He received his B.S. in Computer Science from UCLA, and continued on to complete a Master’s in Music Technology from McGill University. As the former Director of R&D for Zya, he developed a musical messenger app that automatically sings your texts, called Ditty. Ditty won the Best Music App of 2015 from the Appy Awards. In 2016, his research in computational music theory was awarded the Best Paper at the prominent music technology conference, ISMIR. With his new venture, Melodrive, he and his co-founding team of two PhDs in Music and AI are looking to build the world’s best artificially intelligent composer, and to change the way music is experienced in video games and virtual environments.


Mentorship as a way to mind the gap in music academia and to prepare students for the “real world.”

Blog post by WiMIR mentee Stefanie Acevedo, PhD Candidate at Yale University

I knew I wanted a career in music academia since I was fifteen. Now, as I begin the last year of my PhD program in music theory, I feel a mixture of fear, eagerness, and sometimes, uncertainty as to whether I wish to continue in the field. This comes not only due to increasing hostility toward the “liberal conspiracy” of higher education, budget cuts across the board for humanities and music programs, and increasing corporatization of Universities, but also due to slowed (and perhaps even declining) progress for women’s and minority rights in the United States. After spending so many years in graduate school, I worry that all of that effort will be for naught and that my student debt will only grow deeper and deeper due to accruing interest while I make ends meet as an adjunct or visiting professor.

Then again, that anxiety may just be coming from my impostor syndrome [1].

Yet the reality brought on by many of these problems ring true, especially for individuals who make up minorities in musicology fields (women, people-of-color, people with disabilities, and LGBTQ individuals alike): not only must we navigate the world as minorities, but we are also facing a volatile job market.

As a rising educator, then, how can I speak to my students, especially those who are minorities, and tell them that music is a worthwhile career? How can I responsibly educate my students and let them know that, despite spending many years and dollars putting themselves through graduate school, they might have to face years of uncertainty on the job market?

This is where mentoring programs by organizations like WiMIR play a large role.

But first, let us ignore the current job market and focus on the benefits of mentoring. We know that mentoring and support systems allow minority students to thrive [2]. Many minority students are surrounded by societal pressures and, consequently, insecurity – a mentor, aware of the psychological and social dynamics at play, is then able to aid the student in reaching their goals. I, personally, have been lucky to have a PhD advisor who is sensitive to the hardships faced by minority students, and can thus, guide me in matters other than my dissertation research. I am also very lucky to have a wide support network of past professors and mentors who have encouraged me along the way. Many students, especially minorities, do not have that type of support from their advisors or professors, and could benefit from these type of relationships beyond their immediate school environments.

Further, research has shown that women and other minority faculty are more likely to take on mentoring roles than non-minority faculty [3]. This can be problematic in, at least, two ways: A) The amount of time spent on mentoring and related service can compromise minority faculty’s research time (affecting advancement in their field) [4] and B) in departments were minority faculty are scarce, students may not be able to receive the full support they require (leading to lower diversity). Organizational mentoring programs, such as WiMIR’s, can definitely provide outside help to attenuate these problems. These programs also have the potential to indirectly alter department cultures. By becoming mentors, non-minority faculty members can learn and adapt their mentoring to better suit the needs of minority students (and faculty) – they are often even more willing to mentor in the future [5]. Many benefits arise. First of all, minority faculty would be less burdened, giving them more time to research or extend their service elsewhere. If a wider range of faculty invested time into and valued mentoring and similar service more, those activities may be better appreciated by the University as a whole – the service may then be weighed more heavily on, for example, the tenure dossier [6]. And, finally, as non-minority faculty become better attuned to issues faced by minorities, they can facilitate change in department cultures toward inclusivity and diversity [7].

More importantly, though, mentoring programs by organizations such as WiMIR can aid students in diversifying their interests in order to better prepare them for successful careers. As an educator in music, I believe it is my duty to enable students to follow their dreams, but also to prepare them for the real world. As a Hispanic woman, I want to increase the diversity in music theory, but I feel a responsibility to my students to give them the broader picture: academia is cutthroat, the road is long, and job prospects are difficult. I want students to be able to follow their hearts and passion for the arts, but I also want them to have financially-stable and bright futures. The best possible way to prepare a student for a music career, in my opinion, is to diversify their portfolio with a secondary interest in order to develop lucrative skills (not just for a job at a music department, but also for a job in Arts Management at BMI or ASCAP, or as a Data Scientist at Spotify or Google). In my case, I diversified by pursuing a master’s degree in experimental psychology and learning computational skills. We need to be marketable as specialists in music that can apply that knowledge outside of the concert hall or theory classroom. While Universities tout interdisciplinarity, resources are often lacking and students may not have the knowledge, time, or guidance to seek out secondary interests (especially at disadvantaged schools). Not many students can afford the luxury of getting multiple degrees. At many schools, a music degree does not provide training beyond the traditional Western Classical music curriculum. This, then, is where external mentorship can aid students to not only experiment and define other interests, but also gain exposure to and prepare themselves for alternate career paths that also utilize their musical talent. Even for older students, like myself, or those who have already graduated, cross-disciplinary mentorship can help us expand our horizons, leading to a broader portfolio, an increased awareness of the applications of our research, or even, a back up career plan.

Stefanie Acevedo is a PhD Candidate in music theory at Yale University. She is a past member of the Society for Music Theory’s Committee for the Status of Women, a past board member of the International Alliance for Women in Music, and currently serves as a member of the Graduate and Professional Student Title IX Advisory Board at Yale. Her dissertation is a computational and EEG study of popular harmony expectation. She is currently a mentee in WiMIR’s mentorship program.


  1. Peteet, B.J., L. Montgomery, and J.C. Weekes (2015). “Predictors of imposter phenomenon among talented ethnic minority undergraduate students.” The Journal of Negro Education 84(2), pp. 175-186;  Richards, C. (2015). “Learning to deal with the Impostor Syndrome.” The New York Times, October 26.
  2. Thomas, K.M., L.A. Willis, and J. Davis (2007). “Mentoring minority graduate students: issues and strategies for institutions, faculty, and students.” Equal Opportunities International 26(3): pp.178-192, doi: 10.1108/02610150710735471; Blackwell, J.E. (1989). “Mentoring: An action strategy for increasing minority faculty.” Academe 75(5), pp. 8-14.
  3. Acker, S. and G. Feuerverger (1996). “Doing good and feeling bad: The work of women university teachers.” Cambridge Journal of Education 26(3), pp. 401-422.; Flaherty, C. (2015). “Negotiating Balance.” Inside Higher Education, April 22.
  4. Guarino, C.M., and M.H. Borden (2017). “Faculty service loads and gender: Are women taking care of the academic family?” Research in Higher Education.
  5. Ragins, B.R. and J.L. Cotton (1993). “Gender and willingness to mentor in organizations.” Journal of Management 19(1), pp. 97-111.
  6.  Aguirre, A., Jr. (2000). “Women and minority Faculty in the Academic Workplace: Recruitment, Retention, and Academic Culture.” ASHE-ERIC HIgher Education Report 27(6).
  7. Baez, B. (2000). “Race-related service and faculty of color: Conceptualizing critical agency in academe.” Higher Education 39(3), pp. 363-391.

Transitioning from Master’s to PhD: changing the scene from Uruguay to Paris

Blog post by WiMIR-mentee Magdalena Fuentes

Based on my experience, I think that the WiMIR mentoring program can make a difference in how young women join the MIR community. I was first introduced to the mentoring program by Martín Rocamora (Universidad de la República), my Master’s advisor in Uruguay, the country in South America where I come from. In my country, there aren’t many people working in MIR, and when I first joined the mentoring program I wasn’t involved in the community yet. I found the idea of being in touch with experienced people from the MIR community who could talk to me about different scenarios very motivating.

During the same period that I had meetings with my mentor Ana Maria Barbancho (Universidad de Málaga, Spain), I did an internship on a MIR-related task in Paris. At that time, I was trying to decide what to do after, and all the exchanges with the people at the lab in Paris and my mentor were very enriching. The different points of view were valuable for getting an idea of what the MIR community was like and what I really wanted to do. Being in contact with my mentor was helpful because I could discuss things from another point of view, complementing the other opinions people offered. After my internship, I enrolled in a PhD program in France, and I’m currently working in MIR at the labs L2S (CentraleSupélec) and LTCI (Télécom ParisTech).

The MIR mentoring program itself offers a wide and interesting context for discussion. The topics that were proposed for the meetings (life/work balance, academic career, etc) are issues that are relevant to our daily life but in my experience they are not commonly discussed as they should. So it was very nice to have the opportunity to talk about these topics with an experienced person who also has similar interests to mine. Furthermore, there is also room for technical discussions and exchanges, which is a great help for someone who is starting in the field and is generally full of doubts. I’m currently taking part in the second round of the program with a different mentor, Justin Salamon (New York University), and once again it has been a very enriching exchange for which I’m very grateful.

Initiatives like the WiMIR mentoring program encourage diversity in the MIR community and stimulate young researchers to get more involved in the field. I think it’s worth starting more enterprises like this, in particular those encouraging the participation of both male and female young researchers from places where the MIR community is not yet strongly present.


“Finding courage in encouragement” by Amy V Beeston (WiMIR mentee)

Post by Amy V Beeston, one of the mentees of our mentoring program:

I am happy to have been invited by Women in MIR to blog about a recent paper, co-authored with Lucy Cheesman and Liz Dobson, which I presented at the last Digital Music Research Network (DMRN) meeting in London. Our paper reported on a community-building project underway in the north of England, which aims to support and encourage women and girls in (and into) academic and industrial careers relating to music technology.

We were recently awarded a Catalyst: Festival of Creativity grant as part of a city-wide Year of Making celebration in Sheffield. This allowed us to run a series of 8 expert-led workshops, peer-learning maker-space days and a monthly social gathering. These provided ongoing opportunities for women and girls who may have felt excluded or uncomfortable in male-dominated environments to meet, share knowledge formally and informally, and thereby develop their technical and creative skills. Averaging 10 registrations per workshop, our sessions covered a wide range of topics: sound synthesis, machine listening, performance hardware, electronic prototyping, live coding, data sonification, looping and DJing. Despite being labelled as beginners’ workshops, over two-thirds of participants reported some pre-existing familiarity with the topic through their work or studies. Though participants’ lack of confidence was further apparent in their self-rated knowledge of the topic on arrival to the workshop, by the end of the session, these scores had improved in every case (Beeston et al., 2016).

It is clear from the statistics that more work to encourage women and girls is needed in the UK as well as elsewhere. UK national and international publication patterns, for instance, look very similar. We found that female-led contributions to DMRN meetings averaged around 12% of all contributions in the period 2011 to 2015 (Beeston et al., 2016), comparable to the 14% level reported internationally at recent ISMIR conferences (Hu et al., 2016). Indeed, since so few girls have been applying to study music technology in recent years (Born and Devine, 2015) or have been following careers in related industries (see e.g. female:pressure’s recent reports), a lot of energy is being spent now, worldwide, on discussions of gender and diversity in our field.

Being one of many women with an interest in both music and technology, I am of course very happy to add my own energy to this movement. But on a personal level, I felt somewhat underqualified to tell this story: I have worked with sound all my life, not with questions of gender and diversity! Nonetheless, I felt it was important to present our work at DMRN – speaking to a room comprised mostly of men – since we otherwise risk the issue being viewed as a ‘women’s problem’ rather than a problem to be tackled by our research community as a whole.

I hope therefore that our DMRN presentation will provide a useful starting point for a fruitful discussion about what the UK research community as a whole can do to help provide greater support for women and girls both entering and staying in this field. Furthermore, I am pleased to share our story with the international community too via this WiMIR blogpost, and hope that the community-building approach we have followed with the Yorkshire Sound Women Network may provide a useful model for others to adopt in order to increase the participation of women and girls in sound and music technology in other localities.


Born, G. and Devine, K. (2015). Music technology, gender, and class: Digitization, educational and social change in Britain. Twentieth-Century Music, 12(02), 135–172.

Hu, X., Choi, K., Lee, J. H., Laplante, A., Hao, Y., Cunningham, S. J., & Downie, J. S. (2016). WiMIR – An informetric study on women authors in ISMIR. In Proc. 17th International Society for Music Information Retrieval Conference, 765–771.

Beeston, A.V., Cheesman, L. and Dobson, E. D. (2016). Community-building to support and encourage women and girls in music technology. Digital Music Research Network One-day Workshop (DMRN+11), London, 20 Dec.


Mentoring round 2017 is about to start!

After matching 50 mentees and mentors, we are ready to start the mentoring round in 2017 soon! Happy mentoring!

WiMIR mentoring 2017 participants

Mentoring Program Committee

  • Emilia Gómez, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Spain
  • Blair Kaneshiro, Stanford University, US
  • Anja Volk, Utrecht University, the Netherlands

Our 50 mentees reside in Australia, China, France, Hong Kong, India, the Netherlands, South Korea, Spain, Turkey, UK, US. They range from high school student to associate professor, and represent a diverse field of interests and backgrounds, such as machine learning, digital signal processing, computer music, computer science, music theory, computational musicology, music psychology, music performance, music and mathematics,  music perception and cognition, computational ethnomusicology, composition, computational neuroscience, digital media, information science and human computer interaction.

We thank our generous mentors for dedicating their time to this program:

  • Jack Atherton, CCRMA, Music Department, Stanford University, US
  • Ana M. Barbancho, Universidad de Málaga, Spain
  • Isabel Barbancho, Universidad de Malaga, Spain
  • Juan Pablo Bello, New York University, US
  • Ching-Wei Chen, Spotify, US
  • Andrea Cogliati, University of Rochester, US
  • Tom Collins, Lehigh University, US
  • Sally Jo Cunningham, Waikato University, New Zealand
  • Georgi Dzhambazov, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Spain
  • Douglas Eck, Google Brain, US
  • Deborah Egan, DINA, UK
  • Dan Ellis, Columbia University and Google, US
  • Philippe Esling, IRCAM, France
  • Ichiro Fujinaga, McGill University, Canada
  • Mathieu Giraud, CNRS, Université de Lille, France
  • Emilia Gómez, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Spain
  • Fabien Gouyon, Pandora, US
  • Ryan Groves, self-employed MIR Consultant, Germany
  • Dorien Herremans, Queen Mary University of London, UK
  • Xiao Hu, University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong
  • Eric Humphrey, Spotify, US
  • Berit Janssen, Meertens Insitute, Amsterdam, the Netherlands
  • Blair Kaneshiro, Stanford University, US
  • Thor Kell, Spotify, US
  • Katerina Kosta, Queen Mary University of London/Jukedeck, UK
  • Robin Laney, Open University, UK
  • Audrey Laplante, Université de Montréal, Canada
  • Edward Large, University of Connecticut, US
  • Jin Ha Lee, University of Washington, US
  • Alexander Lerch, Georgia Institute of Technology, US
  • David Lewis, University of Oxford, UK
  • Cynthia Liem, Delft University of Technology, the Netherlands
  • Brian McFee, New York University, US
  • David Meredith, Aalborg University, Denmark
  • Emilio Molina, BMAT, Spain
  • Meinard Mueller, International Audio Laboratories Erlangen, Germany
  • Oriol Nieto, Pandora, US
  • Dimitri Papageorgiou, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece
  • Preeti Rao, IIT–Bombay, India
  • Iris Ren, Utrecht University, the Netherlands
  • Spencer Russell, MIT Media Lab, US
  • Justin Salamon, New York University, US
  • Markus Schedl, Johannes Kepler University Linz, Austria
  • Sertan Şentürk, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Spain
  • Amina Shabbeer, Amazon Music, US
  • Jeffrey Smith, Smule, US
  • Jordan Smith, AIST, Japan
  • Ajay Srinivasamurthy, Idiap Research Institute, Switzerland
  • Mi Tian, Queen Mary University of London, UK
  • Derek Tingle, SoundCloud, US
  • Doug Turnbull, Ithaca College, US
  • George Tzanetakis, University of Victoria, Canada
  • Rafael Valle, Center for New Music and Audio Technologies, US
  • Makarand Velankar, MKSSS’s Cummins College of Engineering, Pune, India
  • Gissel Velarde, Aalborg University, Denmark
  • Vladimir Viro, Peachnote GmbH, Germany
  • Anja Volk, Utrecht University, the Netherlands
  • Luwei Yang, Queen Mary University London, UK
  • Eva Zangerle, University of Innsbruck, Austria

WiMIR exciting news

WiMIR group is quite active at the moment!!!

  • WiMIR now has an official Twitter account, @Women_MIR. Please follow us to receive updates on the WiMIR mentoring program, ISMIR travel grants, and other initiatives supporting diversity in the field. Feel free to direct tweets to @Women_MIR as well, and we will spread the word!
  • We are starting the next round of our mentoring program, and we are looking for mentors and mentees to sign up before December 11th. More info in our mentoring program page.
  • Iris Ren and Julia Wilkins joined WiMIR as student volunteers, welcome to the team!
  • Our WiMIR representatives at ISIMIR 2017: Jin Ha Lee, Preeti Rao, and Zhongzhe Xiao More details here.


The WiMIR team


“WiMIR mentorship programme” by Iris Yuping Ren, one of our mentees

Post by Iris Yuping Ren, one of the mentees of our mentoring program about her experience:

Thanks to Anja Volk who invited me to write about my experience on the WIMIR mentorship programme. I’m Iris Yuping Ren, a PhD student at the University of Rochester. I play the violin for fun and I studied mathematics and complex system science for my Bachelor and Masters. I’m now working in the Audio Information Research (AIR) lab in the Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) department. You can find out more about me here.

I still remember that, when I was signing up for this programme, I was 80% excited and curious about:

  • What is a mentorship programme? (since I’ve never been in one)
  • What kind of person will be my mentor?
  • How will the programme help me?
  • etc.

but also 20% uncertain about whether I should be involved

  • Will there be extra workload for me?
  • What if the conversations go wrong?
  • etc.

Taking a weighted average of the pros and cons, I decided to join anyway! And now I’m glad that I did that.

After filling in the sign-up sheet for the programme, I got an email about a few weeks later. I was assigned a mentor: Oriol Nieto, Scientist at Pandora. I was filled with joy: I like Pandora very much! I wanted to know more about the company, more about what research they do that made this guy choose the company and be choosen by them. Plus, the Committee was very considerate in the introduction email, providing a set of questions for us to talk about. I felt silly that I worried about the nothing-to-talk-about-first-time-Skyping embarrassment.

Oriol and I were then in contact, and had our first Skype a few days later. I was amazed by how the conversation was just flowing between us: from basic introduction to academical questions to considerations for the future. An hour of Skyping felt short! And that doesn’t happen much.

Till now, Oriol and I have had 4 very nice sessions over Skype. Sometimes there are glitches from the internet connections (that’s about all I can complain about), but every time I had such a great time chatting and learning with him. I could write the details of each Skype session, but I guess it won’t offer much since they differ a lot from other mentors and mentees. But I think a more common thing is that I feel lots of support from a knowledgeable and experienced someone who works in the same field and cares about more things than just their work. I can’t speak for everybody, but it was great for me to experience that!