The Future of Women in Data Science

Photo: Rosa Benet Carot (Data Scientist, Cajamar Data Lab), Daniela Mezzadri (ICC Client Service), Giovanna Zanetti (ICC Service Desk Coordinator), Elena Makurochkina (UNOPS), Matilde Gil (ICC Network Technician), Elena Tejadillos (ICC Business Intelligence and Report Developer), Cristina Aranda (Chief Marketing Officer Intelygenz Software and founder of Mujeres Tech), Patricia Ramos (OICT), Laura Rodriguez (Vice-President Analytic)

Women still have a long way to go before they can reach any sort of gender parity with others, in the general workforce, in technology sectors and in the data science field. Research indicates that data science is a promising career path and it’s a field likely to offer job security and growth for the foreseeable future. Women are still significantly underrepresented, though.

On 4 March 2019, ICC took part in a significant initiative organized by Global Women in Data Science (WiDS) highlighting the growing representation of female data scientists. ICC joined others at the Universidad Politecnica de Valencia for the first Women in Data Science Valencia, including two workshops and a panel discussion. It was an animated and interested group from ICC, namely Elena Tejadillos, Matilde Gil, Giovanna Zanetti, Alejandro Ponte, Enrique Puij and Daniela Mezzadri.

The Women in Data Science (WiDS) initiative aims to inspire and educate data scientists worldwide, regardless of gender, and support women in the field.  WiDS started as a conference at Stanford in November 2015. Now, WiDS includes a global conference with 150+ regional events worldwide, a datathon encouraging participants to hone their skills and a podcast featuring leaders in the field talking about their work  and their journeys.

Photo: Patricia Ramos, Daniela Mezzadri, Alejandro Ponte, Elena Tejadillos, Enrique Puig and Giovanna Zanetti

Workshops

  • “How do machines learn? A practical introduction to machine learning” with Laura Sebastià, Associate Professor at Universitat Politècnica de València.
  • “Statistical notions for data management” with Ángeles Calduch, Assistant Professor at Universidad Politécnica de Valencia.

Roundtable Discussion

  • Speakers: Cristina Aranda, Chief Marketing Officer Intelygenz Software and founder of MujeresTech; Laura Rodriguez, Vice-President Analytics ForwardKeys; Rosa Benet (Data Scientist, Cajamar Data Lab); Laura Sebastià, Associate Professor at Universitat Politècnica de València UPV
  • Topic: Identifying challenges

During the roundtable discussion, a common concern arose: when girls show an interest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers during their youth, the foundations might be laid for later data science work as adults. However, they often lose interest before it’s time to choose their college (even high school) courses.

Statistics below show that the gender gap in technology and data science has grown significantly over the last two decades, raising global concersn about the state of open-mindedness of the information and tech industry.

Some Outstanding Women in the Data Space

  • Nuria Oliver, Director of Data Science Research at Vodafone and Chief Data Scientist at DataPop Alliance, is an outstanding leader focused on bringing more women into the field (see her bio). Eva Santos is another leader in data science as the Global Chief Creative Officer of Proximity Worldwide and she encourages creatives to become ‘data punks’ see article)
  • One more inspiring group is WiSDOM, Women in Statistics Data and Machine learning, an organization for empowering women working in data science at Uber, shared their experiences at the company and discussed the opportunities they have to make meaningful product changes at scale by leveraging both traditional and cutting edge data science techniques.

The Benefits of Gender Diversity

Speakers agreed that the aim of gender equality in the workplace is to achieve broadly equal outcomes for women and men, not necessarily outcomes that are exactly the same for all. To achieve this requires:

  • Workplaces to provide equal pay for work of equal or comparable value
  • Removal of barriers to the full and equal participation of women in the workforce
  • Access to all occupations and industries, including leadership roles, regardless of gender; and
  • Elimination of discrimination on the basis of gender, particularly in relation to family and caring responsibilities.

Achieving gender equality is important for workplaces not only because it is ‘fair’ and ‘the right thing to do,’ but because it is also linked to a country’s overall economic performance. Workplace gender equality is associated with:

  • Improved  national productivity and economic growth
  • Increased organisational performance
  • Enhanced ability of companies to attract talent and retain employees
  • Enhanced organisational reputation.

Which Measures for Which Future?

A significant debate animated the conference regarding ongoing and future measures for minding the gender gap. All speakers were questioned on such crucial themes and they underlined the importance of Libro Blanco –  Situación de las Mujeres en la Ciencia Española – discussed at the Spanish Parliament in many meetings where Cristina Aranda participated.

It was great to be here at this international conference to see ways in which women are making inroads into data science technology and what some of the questions and solutions might be. As ICC develops its own data analytics services, it will be important to apply these issues and concerns within our own working culture, to ensure top quality, great services and gender parity as well.