Women at GECCO

Current Workshop

Check here soon for an update on the 2023 event to be held at GECCO 2023 in Lisboa, Portugal. We plan to highlight the successful breadth of the event with an exciting program that reflects its continual evolution. One of the evolutionary adaptations will be a name change, so stay tuned!


The Women@GECCO workshop series started in 2013 as a venue in which successful women researchers welcome and support other women in evolutionary computation (EC). Organically over the years, the workshop became a venue where students and junior researchers from different under-represented cohorts in EC interacted in an informal setting with more established women researchers on various issues related to fostering and balancing one’s professional and social life, as well as on inserting oneself in the EC community.

To acknowledge the growing body of EC researchers and the need for newcomers to integrate themselves in the community, as well as glean effective ways to support growth from informative experiences of other researchers, the 2017 Women@GECCO workshop expanded its focus from “by women for women” to “GECCO women welcome EC newcomers”.

In 2023 the event focus will continue to evolve by highlighting diversity. We want to explicitly extend a warm invitation to the broad base of participants who will make the event successful. This includes women, newcomers to the field, those who self-identify as under-represented in respects such as color, or gender, and all our allies.

Organizers of (past and current) Women@GECCO include:
  • Carola Doerr (CNRS & Universite Pierre et Marie Curie (Paris 6), France)
  • Julia Handl (University of Manchester, UK)
  • Gabriela Ochoa (University of Stirling, UK)
  • Amarda Shehu (George Mason University, USA)
  • Tea Tušar (INRIA, Lille, France)
  • Christine Zarges (University of Birmingham, UK)
  • Nur Zincir-Heywood (Dalhousie University, Canada)
  • Emma Hart (Edinburgh Napier University, UK)
  • Una-May O'Reilly (MIT, USA)
  • Anna Esparcia (S2 Grupo, Spain)
  • Aniko Ekárt (Aston University, UK)
  • Anne Auger (INRIA Saclay, France)
  • Bing Xue (Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand)
  • Khulood Alyahya (University of Exeter, UK)

The workshop's format changes from year to year, but it's always a lot of fun, and we encourage participation from anyone interested.

Over the Years

The Women at GECCO event was held on July 16th in Kyoto, Japan, at GECCO 2018.

The fifth edition of the women@GECCO workshop was held at GECCO 2017 in Berlin, Germany. It had diverse activities including three invited speakers Vanessa Volz, Justyna Petke, and Anna I Esparcia-Alcázar followed by group discussions.

The fourth edition of the women@GECCO workshop was held at GECCO 2016 in Denver, Colorado. It included diverse activities such as an invited talk by Prof. Stephanie Forrest, a science slam, an ice-breaker in the form of “speed dating” and open discussion.

We had the privilege to host Prof. Stephanie Forrest, who also presented the SIGEVO plenary lecture in Memory of John Holland at the main conference. Stephanie is a leading figure in the field of complex adaptive systems, at the frontier between computing and biology. Her work is innovative and involves theory, practical relevance, public engagement and informing policy; making her an outstanding example of an all-round academic. This, combined with her friendly and approachable manner, made her presence at our forum even more valuable.

Stephanie’s talk was entitled “My Life in Evolutionary Computation”. After an overview of her career milestones, Stephanie shared with us invaluable career advice. One that resonates the most was: “Pick a problem that people actually care about if you solve it”. Examples of such problems in her research are intrusion detection and cyber-security; modeling complex diseases such as cancer and influenza; and more recently, automatic real-world software repair. Stephanie affirmed that having an early exposure to many disciplines was key in her forming years. Her reflections on inter-disciplinary research are worth sharing. She told us that it is a bit like fusion cuisine, sometimes the mix works wonderfully sometimes it is a disaster! (while her slides showed colourful veggie hot-dogs). In order to succeed, you need to be excellent in at least one of the disciplines involved. Other notable pieces of wisdom related to collaboration, which she compared to marriage: easier to get into than out of, takes work and compromise, but extremely rewarding when going well. Finally, she remarked the importance of maintaining the joy of going to work everyday, and remembering the privilege of being an academic; with a sprinkle of caution ... “never make the mistake of thinking you are irreplaceable”.

GECCO 2015 hosted the third edition of the women@GECCO workshop, with a continued and increasing high participation rate. More than 60 colleagues including both women and men, participated in the workshop and the associated work-life-panel discussion. The program started off with an invited talk by Prof. Emma Hart, head of the Centre for Algorithms, Visualisation and Evolving Systems at Edinburgh Napier University, on Lifelong Learning: An Academic & Personal Perspective. Emma gave an inspirational talk following her career journey, which involved moving from Chemistry to Evolutionary Computing to Artificial Immune System, to finally integrating these strands into her most recent research topic: life-long learning hyper-heuristics. She stressed the importance of people and collaborations in underpinning and supporting the life-long learning process of an academic career. Here is a photo snapped during her talk.
Hart@Women@GECCO 2015
Hart@Women@GECCO 2015

The invited talk was followed by a new element in the workshop series, a so-called science slam, where the speakers were invited to introduce their research topics in a creative and non-standard way, in less than 5 minutes. There were five excellent and surprisingly engaging contributions: Tea Tusar (INRIA Lille, France), Madalina Drugan (Vrije Universiteit Brussels, Belgium), Julia Handl (Manchester Business School, UK), Amarda Shehu (George Mason University, US), and Arina Buzdalova together with Irina Petrova (both ITMO University, St. Petersburg, Russia) volunteered to pioneer the science slam. The creative contributions involved rhymes, Lego puzzles, stories explaining why having a “bad-hair day” can be inspiring for your research, and engaging visuals and animations. The audience agreed: attending a scientific talk had rarely been this much fun!

The women@GECCO workshop was complemented by a discussion on strategies for maintaining a rich and sustainable work-life balance. The discussion was organized by Emily Dolson, Anya E. Johnson and Nur Zincir-Heywood. The format was discussion-oriented; to get everyone on the same page and to give everyone a chance to talk, participants were split into groups to discuss the following two questions for about 15 minutes: (i) What does work/life balance mean to you?, and (ii) What are some signs that your life is in balance? Out of balance? Then, each group shared what they had discussed with the rest of us. This turned into a full group discussion with asking questions and sharing advice, and moving onto topics such as “What can the supervisors do to model good work/life balance for their students?”. Different issues were brought up throughout the discussion from time management, to prioritization of tasks, to identifying opportunities, to networking and meeting people. The conversation was still going strong when the allotted time was up!

The second edition of the women@GECCO workshop was held at GECCO 2014 in Vancouver, Canada.

A nice photo of the organizers at the inauguration of the workshop in 2013:
Women@GECCO 2013
Women@GECCO 2013

Articles of Interest

"Things That Men Can Do To Be Real Allies For Women In Computing": blog post by Valerie Barr.
"Double Blind Review at SSBSE": blog post by Claire Le Goues.
" It’s Time to Kill the Student Evaluation": by Slate

Contact Information

If you would like any content to be added, please contact amarda\ATgmu.edu or tea.tusar\ATijs.si