Judith Kreukels on WIQD’s mission for gender inclusion in Quantum
Judith Kreukels is the project manager at WIQD (Women in Quantum Development), a not-for-profit initiative to provide inclusivity leadership in the Quantum Computing field from academia through industry. WIQD was recently honored by QDNL for its community-based work in the field of quantum development. Specifically, WIQD’s goal is to encourage, promote, and uphold minority stakeholding in the highly technical male-dominated field of Quantum Computing.
We’re thrilled to have had an opportunity to discuss the benefits of this immensely needed resource to help encourage talent in all aspects of Quantum Computing.
We would love to start by asking you to give us a little bit of background about Women in Quantum Development (WIQD) and how it got started.
Women in Quantum Development (WIQD) was founded by two researchers in the field of quantum. Julia Cramer, co-chair, who works at Leiden University, and Stacy Jeffrey, co-chair, and who works at the Center of Mathematics and Informatics, CWI and QuSoft. They found a need to establish a network to promote women working in the quantum sector in the Netherlands as well as one that supports each other in this community.
Currently, there are not many women working in this field - both the quantum and the academic sectors. Not to perpetuate the Leaky Pipeline analogy, but in quantum computing fewer than 30% are women. WIQD is focused on promoting communication and security for women in the field. Early on, our founders set about developing this network to support each other in their community.
What is your role at WIQD?
My role is to oversee the implementation of the activities that the organizing committee develops. I'm also the link between the organizing committee and what we call the steering committee. I'm involved in the funding proposals to implement more projects and the staff budget for WIQD and support networking events outside of WIQD.
We are doing more than ever. The focus has shifted more towards diversity, equity, and inclusion. Our focus group is now women and other gender minorities, binary and non-binary working in the field of quantum, in industry, academia, and policy. There are two project managers working part-time on WIQD and we have transitioned to a professionalized organization.
Have you seen any changes since you started in terms of interest from women and other minorities and working in Quantum?
Yeah, definitely more interest. We tracked engagement on our social media channels. We are active on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram and just recently launched a WhatsApp community. Our engagement has drastically gone up in terms of the number of followers we have, and we are way more visible and have a well-served community in tech. We have also received an increase in collaboration requests (more than we can handle!). Importantly, because of our social media presence, I feel it's easier for people outside the Netherlands to reach us.
Most of our participants work in academia and are either a PhD students or postdocs. We're working on diversifying that and reaching out more to the industry sector, and also to bachelor/master students. Finally, we are adjusting the organization of our events—originally taking place since the beginning in Amsterdam and Delft. Since September, we have organized events in four different locations every month: in Amsterdam, Delft, Leiden, and Enschede, so that we’re reaching our community more broadly.
What do you think it would take to get more women, minorities or non-binaries interested in getting into quantum technologies?
I think it actually begins as early as primary school where we have to change the image people have of Quantum computing and changing the gender image in STEM and physics. Science and technology seem to be a subject or education that men discover. So, there is a built-in bias in place. I think that it is important to get more students to study anything related to quantum and for the people who are already working in quantum to have a community in quantum regardless of gender stereotypes.
It's also very important that we're not only working on diversifying the Quantum community and its employees, but also that the people who are already working here feel that they work in circumstances where they are valued and respected. That's been hard and what we hear a lot in WIQD. It’s difficult if you're the only woman in a team of men, depending of course on your colleagues, but difficult as well if you are any kind of minority.
What are some of the ways you think that can be improved?
There is education that is needed. At the same time inclusive recruitment policies need to be set up because we're selecting in a way that may already be biased. For example, in hiring, companies often select from a pool of candidates based only on CV and notification letter. When job descriptions have inclusive language that describes an open and fair work environment companies will attract a larger audience. So, it's not only about women. I think it's really about inclusion of everybody, marginalized groups, etc. It's something that WIQD is going to look into together with Quantum Delta NL to see if we can play a role there in offering these kinds of training, for example, to the industry sector.
Can you tell me a little bit more about the award that you received or the honor from Quantum Delta NL and also why it’s meaningful to you?
The award was given to the Founders of WIQD - Stacey Jeffrey and Julia Cramer for coming up with a community-based initiative in the field of quantum development. When Julia took the award on stage, she expressed her wish for the sector to be more diverse and equitable, and that there would be more partners that work on this issue next to WIQD. There's so much to be done and there's so much room for other community-based initiatives to come into existence.
In addition to our work with QDNL, we would love to partner with other organizations or volunteers that think they can also play a role in this and have partnerships together because I think it should come from the top, but also from the bottom up - we can support this and we can show especially what is needed as WIQD has done for women. Other gender minorities and other groups can show other perspectives. And of course, there is intersectionality within the group of women, so we're also trying to address issues of race and diversity. But right now, it seems we're one of the only few players. So yeah, it's a call to action for others to also work on these issues together.
Are you interested in getting involved in WIQD? The community can follow on Linkedin, and Instagram, become part of the WhatsApp community, or receive our monthly newsletter via the website www.wiqd.nl.
WIQD is still looking for 3 new Organising Committee members as well! Check out their open vacancies!