[FORBES] Silicon Valley’s Women In Data Science Creating New Opportunities For All Women In Startups And STEM
February 8, 2017 by Katie Elizabeth
Blog post published in Forbes
Data science is booming, and with it, unprecedented opportunities for women. The field is more important than ever – with major corporations and startups alike pushing hard to leverage data to make better decisions, build better systems, and ultimately, create more profitable companies. Entrepreneurs especially are focused on using data science to disrupt existing markets and create new ones.
The increasing importance of data science has created demand for skilled workers and women are stepping up to fill these jobs. Women now make up 40% of graduates with degrees in statistics – the starting point for a career in data science. They are rapidly closing the gender gap in this space where code meets real-world business applications.
The growth of the data science field and the number of women pursuing careers in it has created a unique opportunity for female entrepreneurs and data scientists to join forces. Together they have the power to generate more opportunities for women to succeed all areas of startups and STEM.
Fortunately, this effort is already underway here in Silicon Valley. Organizations, such as The Hive, a co-creation studio led by T.M. Ravi that builds and launches startups, are actively promoting the advancement of women in data science. The organization recently co-hosted an event with Verizon Ventures called, “Women in Data Science.” It was the first in a series of events focused on women in the Big Data/STEM space.
The event was packed with women eager learn from a rock star lineup of speakers, meet other like-minded women, and find more ways to succeed in their careers. The presenters included:
Jill Dyché, VP of SAS, who focused on data for the great good – or how we can apply big data for causes and social impact projects. Dyché drew on the example of leveraging data at animal shelters to reduce human error and euthanasia and increase adoption rates. That’s a win for puppies, kittens and humans alike.
Dr. Crystal Valentine, VP of Tech Strategy at MapR, who talked about deep learning for autonomous cars. After a detailed walk through of everything from real-time analytics to advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), she shared how next-generation tech is starting to leverage machine learning for real-time decision making in autonomous driving.
Dr. June Andrews, data scientist at Pinterest, moderated a closing panel that included Q&A from the audience. The questions were revealing of both how far we have come and how far we still have to go for women in STEM and startups.
There were some common themes that ran through the event, including the skills needed to succeed and how to balance a thriving career and family life. What came through loud and clear from both the speakers and the panelists was that women pursuing careers in Big Data, STEM and startups need both intelligence and street smarts, plus an extreme work ethic and a willingness to go above and beyond on a regular basis to achieve success. Valentine pointed out the importance of mentors to help women navigate the field and Dyché talked about how she proactively looks for female mentors. Both shared how mentors – male and female – had helped them build their careers and how important it is for all of us to help those just starting their journeys.
On the professional-personal life balance front, many expressed challenges they face on a daily basis. One lady earnestly asked how she could stop feeling guilty about putting her kids to bed and getting back to work instead of spending more playtime with them or quality time with her husband. These concerns resonate in my own life. When I began my entrepreneurial career, I made a decision to delay starting a family (and earlier on even refused to simply date) to be able to focus exclusively on my startup. Different decisions are right for different people, and it was evident that many of us still wrestle with these decisions. (I still do). I hope that soon the tug of war between personal and professional for women pursuing startups and STEM will truly become more of a balance.
We are at a special time in history when worlds can collide to jumpstart a new evolution. In this case, the increasing demand for data scientists and the rise of women in that space can heavily influence the startup and STEM worlds to create new opportunities for women across the board. It’s important for more organizations and events to focus on bolstering and connecting women to encourage the growth and evolution of these fields. Together we can create a difference and that’s something data can back up.