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.

REFERENCES

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