WICE: Promoting the Role of Women in Communications Engineering: Interview with Ana García Armada, Chair of the WICE Standing Committee

By Ana García Armada - Chair of WICE Standing Committee and Stefano Bregni - Global Communications Newsletter Editor in Chief, Vice-President for Conferences

This is the sixth article in the series of nine, started in May 2018 and published monthly in the IEEE ComSoc Global Communications Newsletter, which covers all areas of IEEE ComSoc Member and Global Activities. In this series of articles, I introduce the Vice-President and six Directors on the Member and Global Activities Council (namely: Sister and Related Societies; Membership Services; AP, NA, LA, EMEA Regions) and the two Chairs of the Women in Communications Engineering (WICE) and Young Professionals (YP) Standing Committees.

In each article, one by one they present their sector activities and plans. In this issue, I interview Ana García Armada, Chair of the IEEE ComSoc Standing Committee on Women in Communications Engineering (WICE).

Ana received her Ph.D. degree in electrical engineering from the Polytechnical University of Madrid in February 1998. She is currently a Professor at University Carlos III of Madrid, Spain, where she is leading the Communications Research Group. She has been a visiting scholar at Stanford University, Bell Labs and the University of Southampton. She has coordinated more than 40 national and international research projects as well as 20 contracts with industry. She has published approximately 150 papers in international journals and conference proceedings and she holds four patents. She has served on the TPC of more than 40 conferences and she has been/is part of the organizing committee of IEEE Globecom 2019 and 2021, IEEE Vehicular Technology Conference (VTC) Spring 2019, Fall 2018, and Spring 2018, among others.

Stefano: Hello Ana! This is the third time I have the opportunity to interview the Chair of the IEEE ComSoc WICE Standing Committee. The first time was back in 2015, when I interviewed Octavia Dobre during her first term as WICE Chair.

I am very glad I again have this chance. True equal opportunities for women in our field of engineering is one of the five strategic directions I established in ComSoc Member and Global Activities, since my first term as Vice-President for MGA in 2014. Therefore, it is really a pleasure for me to offer you this page to present your plans and the activities of the WICE Committee.

So, Ana, would you share with us how did you get involved in the WICE Committee before being appointed Chair?

Ana: Hello Stefano! It is my pleasure too. I was Secretary of the IEEE ComSoc Women in Communications Engineering (WICE) Standing Committee (2016-2017), working with Prof. Octavia Dobre as Chair and contributing to organizing WICE activities and making them more visible. Then, I became aware of the important role of WICE in ComSoc and I was greatly honored to continue as Chair of this committee (since 2018).

Stefano: What is the mission of WICE? On what kind of activities does it focus? What are its most significant initiatives that you would like to recall?

Ana: The mission of WICE is to promote the visibility of women in Communications Engineering and to create venues for networking and mentoring, contributing to their professional growth. Our main activities are therefore workshops, panels and special sessions that we organize in conjunction with some of the conferences sponsored by IEEE ComSoc. Besides that, WICE sponsors the Child Care program for attendees of ICC and GLOBECOM, and awards student travel grants to young females who would like to learn while helping organizing WICE events in these major conferences. We also offer yearly awards to recognize the outstanding research, mentoring and service of WICE members.

Stefano: I am very happy that you mentioned the Child Care Grant program! It was launched when I was VP MGA. As you know well, as you were actively involved in it since its early trial, we had to push strongly and spend a considerable effort to make it a reality, solving non-trivial practical and legal issues. Now, it is a permanent program in ComSoc MGA. I believe it’s been quite an achievement for all us.

Ana: Indeed, I believe it is quite a success that we now offer grants on a regular basis for ICC and GLOBECOM attendees who are IEEE ComSoc members and who are bringing small children to the conference or who incur extra expenses in leaving their children at home. Preference is given to students, recent graduates, or new entrants to the communications field who are presenting at the conference. Our goal now is to make these grants well known and more widely used. Recently, we identified as an important step for improvement to announce them as early as possible for each conference.

Stefano: More in detail, what events were organized by WICE most recently?

Ana: Creating opportunities for discussion, exchange of best practices and networking is very important to achieve our goals, where the young female Communication engineers find some role models and make connections with more senior members that will help them develop in their profession.

This year, we organized a professional development workshop together with N2Women at the International Conference on Communications (ICC) in Kansas City, USA. We also participated in a panel at the Women In Engineering International Leadership Summit WIE-ILS (Tunisia) about “Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship: Changing Local Communities and Beyond.”

We organized a special session and doctoral colloquium at the International Conference on Nanoscale Computing and Communication (NanoCom), in Reykjavik, Iceland, with a panel about “Trends in Communications and Navigating Your Career.”

We organized a few other panels, namely one at the Global Information Infrastructure and Networking Symposium (GIIS) in Thessaloniki, Greece on “How to Increase the Presence of Women in Communications Engineering: Best Practices and Experiences,” and another panel at the Global Communications Conference (GLOBECOM) in Abu Dhabi, UAE with title “Paving Your Way into Engineering.”

Stefano: In what other ways does WICE provide active contributions to ComSoc activities?

Ana: This year, we started nominating Distinguished Lectures. We would like to contribute to increasing the participation of women in ComSoc committees and the number of females that receive awards, by improving the number and quality of nominations.

We would like all ComSoc members to be aware that WICE is here to help and that they can count on the support of WICE whenever they need any advice or help to increase the visibility of women in our society and the number of females who choose Communication Engineering and grow in their profession.

Stefano: What are your goals and plans for the next year?

Ana: My first goal for the next year is to increase WICE visibility and presence at conferences, with an emphasis on ICC and GLOBECOM, where we will be organizing WICE events.

We aim at having a permanent slot at these conferences, that we may share with Young Professionals, and will acknowledge the importance given by ComSoc to the promotion of the roles and visibility of our female members.

We are also working to increase the number and geographic diversity of active WICE members who contribute to our activities.

Stefano: How can we stay in touch with you and other WICE Committee members? How can we stay updated on your new initiatives?

Ana: The details of past and future activities of WICE can be found on our web page at http://wice.committees.comsoc.org/. We are also active on Facebook and LinkedIn. The WICE mailing list has over 4,000 members. It is a moderated list where we share important information about events, opportunities and the successes of our members, while we avoid any other kind of information that may be annoying or not relevant. So we welcome everybody with an interest in our activities to visit our web page and social media and join our mailing list.

I would like to acknowledge the opportunity to spread the message about WICE in the IEEE ComSoc Global Communications Newsletter, the support of ComSoc’s President and VPs, ComSoc staff, and all WICE volunteers who are making this happen. I hope to see you at our next events, starting with ICC in Shanghai.