Women in Data Science

our consultant managing the role
Posting date: 6/28/2018 2:34 PM

It's 2018 and the predictions of two and five years ago remain. There is a shortage of talent for what has been billed the hottest career of the 21st century. Why? Among the answers to this question, lies lack of diversity within data science teams. With the Women in Data Science (WiDS) Conference set for March 5th around the globe, we wanted to focus on the lack of gender diversity in data science and STEM roles in general.

In the UK, women make up nearly 13% of the STEM workforce versus 26% in the US, though both countries are still woefully underrepresented. Yet, a McKinsey Diversity Report found that 15% of diverse and gender-diverse businesses are more likely to outperform those businesses that are not.

We spoke with McElla Pappas, Vice President of Harnham regarding her thoughts on the talent shortage with a particular focus on the shortage of women entering the data science field.

What do you think would generate interest? What would bring more people to the field of data science?


I think to increase the candidate pool and engage more women in data science requires a blend of analytical traits and effective communication of what the data tells us. This blending creates more of an organic challenge and a task that can be a bit more results-oriented catering more to the science of how women think and what we look for in a data science role.

The science that I've always heard is women like to see impact, to see growth so we need to shift the conversation from "this is a technical role" to "this is a role that is changing the way healthcare will look tomorrow". If we can focus and drive more women toward the messaging of what we're impacting; whether it be in the healthcare space, learning and development space, or improving customer experience, I'm sure we'll see more engagement from women.

Do companies need to be more educated to the benefits of women in data?


Businesses need to have a level of emotional intelligence to understand women want to be on the same playing field. Companies need to push them from a confidence perspective and manage individually rather than in a group. They also have a responsibility to ask why aren't you putting your hand up, you've got the skills. It's all about confidence. 

That said I don't believe all companies require education on the benefits of women in data. We have a customer who is actively looking for female data science talent, so we've been working to put together an event for women in data science in which high level women in the data science industry speak at the conference.


Should women interested in data science target a position in a start-up or a more established firm? 


By their very nature, smaller organizations can offer more cross-functional exposure versus larger and more established organizations. However, within the departments of larger organizations there may be opportunity to gain more commercial exposure. In general, though, gaining more exposure at varying levels and in different departments are more likely to be found in smaller organizations.

Help us change the conversation and take that step towards a new big data and analytics role. You can check out list of current vacancies here.

For the East Coast and Mid-West teams please call 212-796-6070 or email newyorkinfo@harnham.com.

For the West Coast team call 415-614-4999 or email sanfraninfo@harnham.com. 

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