Why Women in Tech Should Find a Home in Big Data

Categories: Data Science General

I recently delivered the keynote at a Women in Technology event in Cincinnati hosted by Procter & Gamble. P&G brought together more than 100 women across various fields to discuss how key tech trends impact women working in the industry and those we want to attract to the field.

You can click through my slides below where I cover the following:

  • Big data trends in CPG
  • How big data is reshaping our work and our personal lives
  • The importance of diversity in today’s tech landscape
  • New disciplines like data science.

I’m lucky enough to get to work with innovative companies using data to solve some of humanity’s greatest challenges, from fighting child sexual exploitation to powering manned missions to deep space. The ability to collect, store and analyze larger datasets than ever is quite literally making the unimaginable, real. Why wouldn’t anyone, man or women, want to help advance this technology and the use of data and analytics?

The specific issue of women in big data is a bit more challenging. I never used to identify as a “woman in technology,” per se. I’m a woman, and I love solving technical challenges- end of story. However, more recently, I’ve noticed the continued lack of women in our field. I have the pleasure of speaking to two-three customers a week, and often I’m one of the only women in the room, if not the only woman.

There are certainly perks to this, like short bathroom lines at conferences. But as any good data professional, my curiosity has me digging in a bit deeper.

I’ve noticed that many things in life are blending: work life and personal life, the physical and digital worlds. Even the skillsets needed to perform what were once considered deeply technical roles. Most of the professional opportunities in big data require deep math and development skills. This has been a limiting factor for women to enter technology in the past. For example, according to the College Board, participation by women in advanced placement computer science exams increased 135% in 2017. That same study shows minority participation rose 170%. Yet female students still account for only 27% of all students taking AP computer science exams and underrepresented minorities make up just 20%.

But data jobs, including data science and data engineering, also demand the blending of social studies and humanities. We often show this Venn diagram to illustrate the skills needed on a data science team. Industry expertise and curiosity often come from innate behavior and studying other disciplines.

data science venn

I believe the combination of more girls being interested in science and math, along with the broadening of needed skills, will help level the playing field in the future (and make the bathroom lines longer). I invite you to review my presentation and feel free to send me your thoughts and practical tips for women. I would also encourage you to check out some excellent national groups, Women in Big Data, Women in Tech, and Girl Geek dinners if you’re in the Bay Area.

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