Reports show that as few as 15% of data scientists are female. What advice would you give to businesses who are struggling to attract and retain senior female talent?
When you’re a female data scientist, what I’ve noticed from my experience is that when you sit at the table where most of the colleagues are male, it’s harder to be visible. You need a special approach because we females tend to speak less or let other people speak first, and there are a lot of interruptions that happen around the table so it’s not always easy to handle.
I like the example of Kamala Harris saying to interruptions “I’m speaking!” and that kind of tone and opportunity should be allowed a bit more. But, I know often interruptions will happen anyway, so it’s also about educating people and leadership about listening more.
The second point which hinders a lot of women is that a decision about hiring someone into a higher position is solely made on past experiences and a quite stringent specialism based knowledge, I think selection criteria needs to be softer and wider and cover ability to learn, build teams and create cohesion within an organisation. This way all of a sudden a lot more women become eligible and qualified.
And, finally of course it would be great if businesses paid attention to internal female analysts and let them grow naturally within an organisation by offering comprehensive training and allowing them more managerial level decision-making about self-direction or independent decision-making.
“Data science has an image problem.” This has been said a lot in the news recently, what would be your advice to employers who want to change this perception and create a more inclusive culture in their business?
Inclusivity is definitely growing, I’ve seen a more diverse colleague base but there is still a lot of work that needs to be done. For example, offering extensive training programmes and starting very early on, even at schools, to instil that feeling of accessibility to a data science career path and showcasing the practical and far-reaching aspects of the industry would definitely help.
And specifically for girls, STEM initiatives needs to incorporate data science and emphasize the positive impact and ground breaking changes it can bring to the society as a whole and to a specific individual. There are a lot of exciting developments which children can be drawn to like self-driving cars, robots creating pieces of artwork, chatting to a robot assistance etc.
What excites you most about recent developments and the future of data science and AI?
Some of the interesting developments will be the ones that will answer the latest global challenges that humanity is facing and also dealing with the reality of a post Covid-19 world.
Healthcare and pharmaceutical is one area which has benefited greatly and will keep benefiting at an increasing rate from AI and data science solutions.
I also think that remote working, isolation and loneliness and increase in care requirements for the vulnerable groups is another big challenge which AI can help to tackle by using latest communication technologies, intelligent alert systems, health state assessments, offering robotic solutions, etc.
And there is a challenge like climate change, where AI has only started making an impact, it will require joint global efforts to develop a system of solutions which will have a significant impact starting from tracking, use of geo-satellite imagery, evaluation, alert systems, guiding optimal production and distribution and so on and so on. Opportunities are limitless! We just have to remember that AI and Data Science are not a replacement for our actions, but enablers and can maximise our actions manifolds, I hope these will be only positive ones to benefit humankind overall.