Improving diversity in data and analytics teams

Sandra Namatovu our consultant managing the role
Posting date: 6/5/2013 11:01 AM

We are a data-driven world fueled by information. Whether it's the obvious players such as the financial or retail industries or the not so obvious from sports to music; everyone uses data within their business to make decisions. That is the heart of business intelligence (BI). BI helps businesses identify, discover, and analyse data from revenue, costs, incomes, and products or services. 

If you google "data science" or "data scientist", you might get what schools offer degrees in the field, where to find a job, or you might find articles which talk about the profession as whole; "the hottest job of the 21st century" or "data scientists are the rock stars of the techworld". Yet, across the Google pages and throughout the articles you might notice a troubling trend; there remains a shortage of data science professionals in both the US and the UK. Why?

Diversity in Data

Though the percentage of women in the STEM and technology fields has declined since the early 90s when it peaked at 36%. Yet, the shortage remains. It's not just women, however, who are underrepresented. Other minorities are underrepresented as well. 

With around 12% of Hispanic/Latino or African-American Data Science enrollees and 35% women enrolled in technical education fields, it would seem a bit of fostering and encouragement might generate further interest in the field. But, to remember when building your diverse data team, everyone wants simply to be treated as equal - to have their thoughts and voice heard.

According to a recent article in Forbes, women in the US hold 26% of data jobs. The number drops to half that in the UK. And the numbers continue drop in regard to diverse representation in the field. Proposed reasons for the gap are a lack of education in the STEM fields early on, a lack of mentorship for women in data science, even resources and rules stemming from human resource departments. In other words, companies need to be educated on the benefits of diversity in their data teams. 

The US Department of Labor predicts 1.4 million computer specialist positions will be open by 2020. In the UK, an additional 182,000 jobs will be created by 2020. That's on top of the data and computer science jobs that already exist. An explosion of opportunity abounds for women and men alike. With organisations like Girls Who Code, the Women in Data Science (WiDS), Grace Hopper, and month's MIT Conference Talk Data to Me, there are plenty of opportunities to share stories, be inclusive, and grow the field to change the world.

Move 'Em Up, Not Out

It's become nearly cliché to suggest a woman leaves a job due to family obligations. It is rarely, if ever the case today. What doesn't work is the attrition rate, often not even realised and it begins much earlier in life.

According to Girls Who Code, 74% of middle school girls have an interest in STEM topics and careers, but that number drops exponentially to 0.4% by high school. That's quite a drop in potential candidates to the field long gone before they ever choose their college majors. But, the challenge of attainment and retention goes beyond education. 

Other obstacles abound once they're in the workplace such as feelings of isolation, a lack of mentorship or support, limited special assignments and not being looked to as equal players in the field. So, to combat this, many women simply take their knowledge and begin their own companies. They can source the data and communicate it to laypersons in an easy to understand manner so informed business decisions can be made to improve products or services. Baselines and benchmarks can be set and these women know it's important to question what they see, to run what-if scenarios, and to look at every angle.

Ultimately, the data science industry needs more women to bring their skills and perspectives to the table for better overall performance. Though women remain the minority in technology the goal is to raise awareness, to highlight opportunities and bring the benefits of diversity to light. With the abundance of programs, cross mentorship opportunities; women mentoring other women, but also mentorship from their male counterparts, and more educated companies on the benefits of a diverse data science team, women will continue to close the gender gap at a steady pace. 

Harnham are proud to have a client who is currently in search of female talent specifically. We specialise in junior and senior level recruitment in the digital and analytics field and pride ourselves on setting the bar for other firms to emulate. If you're interested in big data, marketing insights, and other roles within the data science fields, we've got a role for you. Check out our vacancies here or contact us for more information. 

Contact our UK Team at (020) 8408 6070 or email ukinfo@harnham.com to learn more.

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