Introducing the new role of the Director of Diversity and Outreach

Alan Smeaton, Chair of the SIGMM Executive Committee
Susanne Boll, Director of Diversity and Outreach


Over the last few decades SIGMM has grown with regard to the number and size of conferences and workshops we organize and sponsor, and we have grown with regard to our international outreach. Researchers from all over the world now participate in SIGMM and its many activities. In the same way in which we grow internationally with regard to members, with regard to the participants attending our conferences and their different backgrounds, the diversity of SIGMM is also growing. However, we can observe that diversity and all the aspects it brings to a society is not necessarily “just something” but needs to be supported and embraced by a cultural change of the organization and all its members.

Introducing the new role of SIGMM Director of Diversity and Outreach

In 2019, SIGMM created the new role of SIGMM Director of Diversity and Outreach with a variety of roles and responsibilities, for an initial 3-year period. Creation of this position is a sign and an action to establish future activities and an invitation on a more formal level to move our work in this area beyond anecdotal activities and personal engagement. The Director of Diversity and Outreach will be a voting member of the SIGMM Executive Committee. The EC Chair has drafted and circulated a role specification for this and sent a call to the community for expressions of interest in the role in Spring 2019. The confirmation of an appointment was made by the EC in May 2019. For the inaugural appointment 2019-2021, Susanne Boll has has been elected unanimously for this role. With this new director of diversity and outreach, SIGMM is supporting and developing diversity on an institutional level as a voting member of the SIGMM Executive Committee.

First Initiative

As a first initiative, the SIGMM EC has decided on a “25 in 25’’ strategy to strategically increase the participation of women in SIGMM and all its activities. This strategy aims at increasing the participation of women in all activities and committees of SIGMM to at least 25% by 2025. 

It can be observed that female participation in SIGMM has been low over many years. Even though there were good initiatives over the last decades, we have failed to include a proportionate number of women researchers into the SIG and into our executive structures and event organization. As we observe that about 25% of all CS degrees in computer science are held by women, we may well expect that ACM find these numbers reflected in the number of women active within their Special Interest Groups –  which is not the case in SIGMM. We strongly believe that it will only change if we as SIGMM take action. This action will take place on three levels. 

With the SIGMM Executive Actions we aim at an obligatory inclusion of women in the steering committees of SIGMM. For the coming elections in 2021, we will implement a voting scheme by which the two leading chair positions, SIGMM Chair and SIGMM Vice Chair, will be filled by a man and a woman. For the forthcoming SIGMM officer elections, SIGMM will also fill other candidate roles with two individuals, one man and one woman to ensure gender equality on the level of the different roles. 

With the SIGMM Conference Steering Actions for all forthcoming appointments to the individual Steering Committees, the Steering Committees will invite female candidates in order to reach at least a 25% share of their memberships. All Steering Committees will have their members online and maintain a history of their SC and the different positions on the organizing committee of their related conferences online.

With the SIGMM Conference Actions we request that all SIGMM-sponsored conferences have at least 25% representation of women in all roles of their organizing committee which will be observed for all forthcoming bids for conferences.  We aim at organising committees in which the many volunteer roles for our conferences, such as general chair, workshop chair, tutorial chair, panel chair, web chair, local chair, or proceedings chair could be filled by two individuals, one woman and one man.  

The SIGMM Director of Diversity and Outreach will observe the implementation of these rules and report on the state and progress annually within the EC, at the annual SIGMM business meeting at ACM Multimedia and publish a report in SIGMM Records.

What’s next?

The creation of the role of the  SIGMM Director of Diversity and Outreach was a first step. The initiative “25 in 25” is the first set of initiatives and further initiatives will follow. Currently, we are already in discussion about actions across SIGMM events such as travel support, childcare, mentoring support, support for speakers and targeted meetings. We will regularly inform you through our regular newsletter, website, and meetings. 

SIGMM understands the new role as actively pushing and developing diversity and outreach within SIGMM. The new director is here to listen and to act for a better diversity of our Special Interest Group MM, our activities and our outreach to the multimedia community.  All SIGMM members are strongly invited to support the activities of the director of outreach and the different initiatives. The director will also seek and actively exchange with and learn from other Special Interest Groups within ACM and other societies. If you want to get involved please join us (contact: Susanne Boll

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