Use Education to Bring Women Into Data Science

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Women and data science

Now is the time for business to take the initiative and proactively encourage women to enter and remain in the data science and engineering fields.

Create Industry Working Groups

For those who are interested in data science but may not have a position in the field, industry work groups can be a valuable resource. Through its Open Innovation team, NASA launched a community called Datanauts, which creates opportunities to attract data newcomers, introduce and advance data science skills, and create a vibrant data problem-solving community.

While the year-long program is open to both women and men, the founding class was composed entirely of women in an effort to encourage female tech entrepreneurs to participate. As the program’s website notes, “It really IS Rocket [Data] Science.”

Implement a Diversity Strategy

Airbnb, the popular home-sharing service, understood the importance of having a team reflective of its community of users. So, when the company realized that men significantly outnumbered women in its workforce, it implemented a diversity strategy to overcome this obstacle, specifically in the hiring process. Given that the data science team was largely male, the company started sending a group that was 50 percent female to candidate presentations.

Furthermore, Airbnb streamlined the criteria for grading take-home data tests, used as a basis for selecting candidates, to remove the likelihood of unconscious bias. The strategy has significantly increased the number of women in the data science group, and the approach is being adopted across the company.

Partner With Nonprofits in the Space

Organizations such as Girls Who Code aim to close the gender gap in tech, offering after-school clubs for students and summer immersion programs that provide exposure to technical jobs. Companies such as Accenture partner with Girls Who Code to make these clubs and programs possible, by offering skills training, exposure to real-world business and mentoring opportunities, and supporting program alumnae in the transition to higher education and the workforce, often hiring them as interns.

Your company’s taking such initiatives should help encourage women to enter the tech industry and become part of the data science revolution. The industry, your business and the women will all benefit from these efforts.

Sears Merritt is the vice president, Data Science, Engineering & Advanced Analytics, at the MassMutual Financial Group.

This article was originally published on 2017-02-07
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