2010 ACM Awards - A Glance at Gender

Jun 06 2011 Published by under computer science, women

The Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), our main professional organization in Computer Science next to the IEEE, has announced their award winners for 2010. This includes the Turing Award, which is basically our version of the Nobel Prize.

I thought I'd do a quick check to see what the gender balance of awardees was for this year. Just curious.

Turing Award - M
ACM-Infosys Foundation Award - M
Paris Kanellakis Theory and Practice Award - M
Software System Award (Group of 12) - All M
ACM/AAAI Allen Newell Award - M
Grace Murray Hopper Award - M
Karl V. Karlstom Outstanding Educator Award - 1 F, 1 M
Doctoral Dissertation Award - M
Distinguished Service Award - M
Outstanding Contribution to ACM Award - M

So by my quick tally looks one woman received an award - for being an educator - which she shared with a man.


For new 2010 ACM Fellows, things look a little bit better. Looks like 8 out of 41 were women, so about 20%.

I don't have time at the moment, but if anyone is feeling energized it would be interesting to look at the data for previous years, as well as from IEEE. It takes a bit of work - you often have to visit people's websites to figure out gender, since names are not always clear.

3 responses so far

  • Jim Thomerson says:

    I bet most of them have last names which suggest a fairly recent Asiatic origin. Immigrants or children of immigrants, perhaps.

  • MZ says:

    I think that "informally" decided things like awards or plenary talks are the last bastion of unabashed, if often unconscious, gender bias in many fields of science. I was on a selection committee for one big award and we were all asked to simply come up with nominees. This is a recipe for disaster, of course, because people tend to think of people who are like them, and also it becomes self-perpetuating, because the people who win are then more likely to come to mind for other awards.

    When all suggestions except mine were male (from the rest of the male committee members), I complained to an officer in the society, making the case that if this were a job search, we would have been told that the pool was simply not broad enough. He agreed, asking for other names. One of the committee members, thus prompted, sent around an email saying that he'd thought about it for 10 minutes or so and had come up with about SIX women who would be worthy candidates. It did not seem to occur to him that it was surprising that these women had not been part of his original list.

    A better system is to develop a list of people who fulfill certain criteria and then winnow that down. Easier to do sometimes than others, but it can help.

  • I went to the awards ceremony for a similar organization in my field last summer, and found that the newly elected head of the awards committee was female. I can count the number of females given awards by this committee on one fist. There was speculation on whether having a female head of the committee would make it more or less (if possible) likely for a woman to finally be recognized, given the pressures she must feel not to "play favorites to her own gender."

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