On behalf of the Women in Information Theory Society (WITHITS) and the Diversity and Inclusion committee (D&I) of the ITSOC, we are delighted to share details of a joint event we organized on Monday June 26th at ISIT 2023. The event was in the evening, following a full day of talks and plenary. To our delight, the event, comprising two parts, was very well attended by both junior and established members of the society, setting up the stage for a wonderful evening of conversations, intrepid questions, and engaging back-and-forth between younger and senior members of the society.
The first half, entitled "Dinner and Date" was focused on small group interactions that provided participating attendees to connect and network with one another in small group settings. The 70-odd participants were divided into nine groups (each group seated around a table) with about 9 participants per table. Two participants at each table were chosen a priori as mentors, thus providing a mechanism to moderate and engage conversations. We are thankful to all the mentors including Lele Wang, Stefano Rini, Martina Cardone, Carrson Fung, Tara Javidi, Lalitha Vadlamani, Daniela Tuninetti, Hye Won Chung, Victoria Kostina, Flavio Calmon, Mykola Servetnyk, Michelle Effros, Ying Li, Lalitha Sankar, Parastoo Sadeghi, Oliver Kosut, and Ling-Hua Chang. Conversation topics included discussion of research topics, applying for postdoctoral positions, industry vs. academic jobs, and even discussions on writing proposals. It was clear that the conversations were very engaging (over a delightful dinner; big shout out to the ISIT 2023 organizers for the splendid arrangements and support throughout the event organization!) so much so that it was hard to begin transitioning to the second event of the evening. It was immensely satisfying to see enthusiastic participation by everyone and even more to see the gender and geographical diversity of the participants. A few graduate students expressed interest in volunteering for WITHITS including helping with the website, recording videos etc.
The second half of the evening involved a panel event focused on the topic of D&I in the Asian academy. We were joined by nine panelists (Stefano Rini, Carrson Fung, Lalitha Vadlamani, Hye Won Chung, Mykola Servetnyk, Ying Li, Parastoo Sadeghi, Brian Kurkoski and Ling-Hua Chang), eight from academia and one from the industry, spanning several countries including Taiwan, S. Korea, Australia, Japan, and India with a good mix of male and female researchers. The focus of this event was in both discussing the challenges that women and foreign natives face in their respective settings as well as appreciating the strides that have been made. It was a very enlightening session that, while highlighting distinct local challenges, also emphasized the global efforts being made everywhere to be more inclusive. In many ways, it was eye opening for both the panelists and the participants to learn about one another's challenging experiences.
In summary, our joint event at ISIT 2023, co-organized by WITHITS and the D&I committee of ITSOC, served as a valuable space for networking, mentorship, and meaningful discussions. We celebrated the diverse voices and experiences within our community and explored ways to promote diversity and inclusion in academia. We look forward to continued collaboration and progress in promoting diversity and inclusion within our community.