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.
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.
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
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.
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?
but also 20% uncertain about whether I should be involved
Will there be extra workload for me?
What if the conversations go wrong?
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!
A paper in ISMIR 2016 titled “WiMIR: An Informetric Study on Women Authors in ISMIR” (Hu et al., 2016) presents an informetric study of the publication, authorship and citation characteristics of female researchers in the context of the ISMIR conferences, with interesting findings that give rise to both positive and negative issues related to gender imbalance in the field. In this study, the ISMIR online proceedings and conference web pages served as the sources for collecting information of ISMIR papers and their authors. Then, the gender of each author were manually determined and labelled based on their names, relying on the collective knowledge of the authors and assistance from the ISMIR community. Regarding citation counts of the publications, Google Scholar was used as the source of citation data, which indexes a wide variety of academic sources including books, conference papers and working papers.
From 2000 to 2015, among the 1863 identified unique authors who published at least one paper in the ISMIR proceedings, 14.71% (274) were female and 85.29% (1589) were male. Among the 1610 papers published over the years, 24.2% (389) had female first co-authors and 14.1% (227) had female first authors. Meanwhile, 73.8% (1188) of all papers did not have any female authors, and 84.6% (1362) were led by male authors. The chart below shows that there is virtually no improvement over the years in terms of the proportion of papers led by female authors. However, more papers with female co-authors appeared in recent years.
Proportion of ISMIR papers by each gender (2000-2015):
In the following chart, it is shown that the most proliferate female and male researchers had led almost an equal number of papers, illustrating the pattern that the most productive women researchers performed as well as the most productive men researchers.
Number of ISMIR papers led by each gender
In terms of the institutions of female authors in the field, the top three institutions with the largest numbers of ISMIR papers led by female authors were University of Illinois, Queen Mary University of London and McGill University. The ranks of these three institutions were actually earned by their female students, since no female researchers with permanent positions in these institutions has ever led an ISMIR paper. This shows the strong contribution female students made to this field, corroborating the importance of supporting junior female researchers through mentorship programs. For the disciplines of female authors, the most popular discipline is Computer Science, followed by Library and Information Science, then Music Technology, both of which are quite interdisciplinary.
As for the distribution of geographic locations of female authors, most were from North America and Europe since most labs in the MIR field are located in these areas. Seconding these were Asia and Pacific regions. It is thus suggested that promoting international collaborations between regions with more established and reputable research facilities and those emerging but less developed regions would be a fruitful approach to cultivate female researchers in the field.
The chart below shows the co-authorship trend over the years, which shows that the average number of co-authors per paper has been increasing over the years, and this is true for papers led by either gender. Among the 214 single authored papers, 16.3% (35) were written by female authors and 83.7% (179) by males. In particular, 8.0% (22) of female authors had single-authored one or more ISMIR papers while 8.1% (129) of male authors had done so. Both female and male authors reach out for collaborations, perhaps due to the interdisciplinary nature of the MIR field, with the average number of male co-authors being higher than that of female co-authors.
Number of co-authors per paper (2000-2015)
The study also conducted a social network analysis (SNA) on the co-authorship networks of female researchers and their collaborators. In the figure below, each node represents an author and authors who often collaborated with each other were grouped into clusters. The size of a node is proportional to the number of ISMIR papers led by the author. Some clusters contain multiple female authors with a relatively high number of publications, attributable to the research groups these authors were affiliated with. It is verified that having research labs or groups is important for fostering the growth of female researchers.
Co-authorship networks of ISMIR female authors (groups with at least five female authors are presented)
With regard to citation counts, the average citation count of all papers with female researchers as the leading author is lower than that of papers with male leading authors, yet without a statistically significant difference. The difference is even smaller for citation counts of single-authored papers. It is also shown from the chart below that the distributions of papers led by male and female authors by the number of citations are very similar, ranging from the proportion of papers with no citation to that of high-cited papers. Such findings render that the scholarly impact of authors in both genders is similar. This is an encouraging result that such gender disparity in scholarly impact measured by citation counts is not significant in the MIR field.
Distribution of female and male-led ISMIR papers by number of citations.
Topic analysis was conducted with the titles of the papers, so as to identify the topics female authors tended to pursue. The results show that female researchers collaborated with male to work on key detection and evaluation, whilst female authors also worked together on user studies. Papers led by female authors were more likely to focus on melody similarity, mood classification, retrieval systems, corpus and data sources, as well as cross-cultural issues. In contrast, male researchers were most likely to write about Markov model, audio signals, audio features, and Web-based approaches. These differences in focus, according to the study, may reflect the distribution of representation of women in Computer Science and Engineering, where proportionately more women in those fields focus on Human-Computer Interaction (e.g., user studies, cross-cultural issues, digital libraries) rather than signal processing (e.g., audio signals, audio features).
Overall, the study concluded that it is discouraging to see the participation of female authors in this field has hovered throughout the history of ISMIR without much improvement over time. However, the most prolific authors of both genders are similarly productive and papers led by both genders are cited at similar rates. This study has highlighted the importance of the role of mentorship through co-authoring papers. It is also vital for female researchers to be part of research labs or groups for increasing the number of female scholars in this field, where a promising approach is promoting international collaborations that connect female researchers in less represented regions with more established groups. The study also suggests encouraging and attracting female contributors from interdisciplinary fields such as Information Science and Music Technology. These areas are also crucial for the development of usable, effective music systems that help understand users and their needs, for creating new systems that integrate with both technological and social infrastructures.
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 Proceedings of the 17th International Conference on Music Information Retrieval (ISMIR).
Women in MIR (WiMIR) Grants are being offered for the first time thanks to the generous support of industry partners (Smule, Shazam) to female first or supporting authors of accepted full papers, as well as female first authors of accepted late-breaking demo (LBD) submissions to be presented at ISMIR 2016.
Applicants do NOT need to be students to apply for the WiMIR Award.
If you are a female MIR researcher, are planning to attend ISMIR, and you need some support, please apply before May 20th.