Welcome to the June issue of the Close the Data Gap blog. Each month, we interview either a member of our group or a guest speaker about their passion for gender equity and what they are doing to close the data gap in their corner of the world. This month, Kirsten Madeira-Revell interviewed PhD student and Close the Data Gap member, Daniel Fay
What is your role, and what career path are you currently following?
I am a Senior Software Engineer and a final year PhD student. My PhD research is in the maritime domain and looks at Human-Machine Interface requirements for contemporary and next generation platforms. My career path is primarily all things Computing and Software Engineering, although I am also a Human Factors practitioner, and seek to utilise a multi-disciplinary approach to my work.
What aspects of your work gives you the most satisfaction?
A lot of my field is quite interesting, and as such there is a lot of satisfaction. When I worked at the University of Southampton, I enjoyed creating software for all stages of the research process. I also enjoyed using IT to help the group where possible, advocating for its utilisation where appropriate. Overall, its about using technology to its fullest extent and blue-sky thinking.
You are also a part of our Close the Data Gap group. Could you tell me what your role is within this group and any other gender-equitable groups?
I am one of the original members of CtDG, joining when Kirsten first sent the call to action out. Over the years we have been active I have been involved in the group in a few areas, with the main area being the education mini-group. This group concentrates on providing educational material and delivering it where possible. I worked with Siobhan, another group member, to create and deliver a session for other PhD students. This session focused on raising awareness of gender-equity issues, and requesting that they consider these, as well as other equity issues, during their research and subsequent activities. A PhD is all about contributing to the world of knowledge and changing the status-quo, so it was logical to deliver the training to PhD researchers. Another training session has just been run by Rich McIlroy and Rachel Hayward with positive feedback, and the mini-group is looking at expanding the training offering across the University and eventually outside.
What is your favourite thing about being a part of CtDG and any other organisations you are a member of?
The best part of CtDG is that we are making a difference and taking advantage of opportunities that are presented; this can be difficult and a very long process sometimes, so it good to be moving forward.
To you, what is gender equity, what does it really entail, from your perspective?
Equity is facilitating the same outcomes for everyone, ensuring that no one is disadvantaged. Much the same as the solutions, the processes to get there are not ‘one size fits all’. While there are guidelines and principles that apply across the board, equity is about understanding the issue and people involved to ensure that the outcome is accessible for all.
Why do you believe gender equity is so important within the research process?
Gender equity in the research process is important as it is a prime opportunity to enact change; as research is typically conducted to make something new or improved, equity can be made a key consideration. As above, there is no one correct method, but there are multiple opportunities for incorporating equity throughout the process. This could include appropriate sampling or making use of the diversity of your network for example. The PhD training addressed this, encouraging participants to assess and act upon where they could make progress in their fields.
In what have you ensured your research is gender equitable?
I ensure that my work and research is gender equitable by aiming for inclusivity wherever possible. Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) should be a consideration wherever possible, and I incorporate the principles in work, ranging from conducting research in a gender equitable manner to using gender neutral language in my reports (as a small change, why not try it yourself?).
What do you think will be the next big thing in your field?
Technology will continue to be a pervasive factor of modern life and affect almost every aspect of it. My hope is that EDI is a core consideration and that everyone can have maximal utility. For example, a previous blog post mentioned AI and the biases that get incorporated from training data. Future Artificial Intelligence (AI), which is the foundation for a lot of big things for society, should be capable of avoiding this, making it more beneficial for more people. This could range from social media photo filters working on everyone all the way through to more serious issues such as appropriately accounting for gender in healthcare AI.
Outside of your work role, could you think of anything that is a big gender data gap issue that you face in your day-to-day life?
I personally have not faced many issues due to my gender. However, people that I know, both professionally and personally, have told me about the issues they have faced. These have ranged from being dismissed at work because of their gender (or being asked to get refreshments) to being openly harassed on nights out. These issues should not happen, and I want to support getting rid of them, regardless of whether I am affected by them or not. Equity issues can affect everyone, either directly or indirectly, so it is in our best interests to take action where we can to make the world a more inclusive place.
Do you have any advice to give to anyone who also wants to make a difference to gender equity in their corner of the world?
My advice is to start however you feel comfortable, not all change needs to be large and/or all encompassing. Additionally, if there is something that you think would make a difference, but needs others to act, directly asking them could prompt the change. I have seen these during my time at CtDG, and it has allowed us to enact change within our sphere of influence.