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Celebrating International Women’s Day

Monday 8 March 2021 Data Insight & Analytics

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By Sian Poole. Paola Bombo. Charlotte King. Olivia Longmore

Celebrating International Women's Day: Events of the last year - Sian Poole

This International Women’s Day, we want to celebrate the achievements and reflect on some of the experiences that women have shared in the last year. This is part one of our four-part blog celebrating International Women’s Day 2021.

Some examples of these achievements include more women in leadership roles in business and politics. Female leaders such as Jacinda Ardern have been some of the most successful in managing the impact of covid-19. Some further examples from our industry are included in Charlotte King’s article highlighting the importance of female role models and Olivia Longmore goes into more detail about her own experiences working in Location Analytics.

It is important that this progress is also reflected in policy, technology and in people’s lives. In the following article, Paola Bombo explores the implications of gender bias in data showing there is still more progress to be made.

This year, the ongoing impact covid-19 has had on everyone cannot be overstated, but this is often disproportionate. Women carry out the majority of unpaid care work, including within communities, domestic work and caring for children and other household members (Independent, 2021). This is regardless of if they also work outside the home. This labour is not always recognised or shared equally, so can be detrimental to women’s careers and mental health and has been further exacerbated by the pandemic.

The UK’s gender pay gap report was postponed last year and reporting is not set to resume until October 2021. The Women’s Budget Group reported 52% of workers furloughed between March and August 2020 were women, leading to a reduction in earnings. For the closing of the gender pay gap to continue, the impact of covid-19 on women’s careers must be identified.

However, the option of more flexible working and working from home established from the pandemic will hopefully benefit those wishing to start a family and reduce the impact on their careers. Alongside sharing domestic work and improving everyone’s work life balance.

It is also important to highlight the advantages I have as a woman to be able to celebrate the progress that has been made on International Women’s Day and to acknowledge the struggles other women face all around the world.

 

Gender bias in data – Paola Bombo

The events of 2020 sparked a much greater awareness of conscious and unconscious bias in society. What is bias and what impact does it have in the workplace, technology, and our daily lives? Bias is a systematic prejudice against a person or group that affects our judgements and decisions. There are endless types of biases and as a young woman in my field I am passionate about addressing the gender biases in society and achieving gender equality.

Aside from the obvious male-dominated data analytics industry, there are also gender biases in the actual data we use for research and technology. Dubbed ‘the gender data gap’, examples of these biases are the main subject of Caroline Criado Perez’s Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Built for Men (2019). Perez explores examples of different elements in our society, from transportation systems to medical diagnoses and smartphone technology, and how they are overwhelmingly designed for men due to gender biases in data. One of the more striking examples in her book is that women are 50% more likely to be misdiagnosed when suffering from a heart attack due to male-dominated medical trials. Similar real-world examples are present throughout the book highlighting gender disparities and emphasising the need for accurate and representative data.

So how can we challenge and overcome data bias as well as work towards closing the gender data gap? David Dennis Jr quotes that “a program is only as progressive as its programmers” regarding biases in artificial intelligence and how they are being coded into future technology. Diversity in the workplace is crucial and an important steppingstone in making women visible and closing the gender data gap. From personal experience, female-presenting role models in positions of leadership inspired me to pursue a career in data analytics and encourage others to do the same. If we want a future of equality, we must acknowledge biases and work towards solutions that have an inclusive approach.

 

The importance of role models for driving women in data – Charlotte King

When leaving school and joining university I hadn’t thought my path would lead me into a field of data and analytics. Having studied geography at university, my options were open, but my path was not immediately clear. What was clear to me given strong female role models growing up was that I should never be held up or constrained as a result of my gender. It plays to an important piece of research that has been conducted around the “Entitlement Gap” which you may have seen mentioned in the last few weeks as Edwina Dunn and the amazing team at The Female Lead seek to close the gap.  The research states that “Women have been socially conditioned to feel less entitled than men,” resulting in inequality in pay, care burden and domestic load (The Female Lead, 2021).

We all have the power to change this, to choose to challenge the status quo and to inspire, encourage and support other women into their chosen fields. The field of data and analytics is undoubtably a male dominated field with “male analysts and scientists outnumber[ing] females 4 to 1” (Women in Data, 2021) but thankfully we are beginning to see change. When I started as a data analyst there were two women in a team of 20 but now it feels as though a network and community has started to grow as organisations sit up and realise the substantial economic and social contributions a diverse team will bring.

Being involved in communities such as our internal ‘Inspiring Women’ committee or, externally, the Women in Data organisation has been invaluable in creating a platform for women to share their experiences, unconventional paths, successes and challenges. For me the importance in having role models to inspire and encourage cannot be overstated but we each need to take it upon ourselves to celebrate the successes of one and other.

This International Women’s Day I want to do just that so here is a selection of amazing women in data or organisations that have inspired or supported me:

  • Women in Data – Roisin McCarthy, Payal Jain and Rachel Keane – for launching and creating an amazing platform to inspire girls and women into data
  • Karen Jean-Francois – for spending lockdown creating a brilliant set of podcasts providing eye opening conversations from fellow women in data
  • Jillian Kowalchuk – for your inspirational speech at the WID conference and your brilliant #friday #femalestofollow idea of sharing inspirational women each Friday on your LinkedIn network
  • Elizabeth Harris – for talking so honestly about the importance of gender and neurodiversity in the workplace
  • Mel Stanley – for being a part of our Inspiring Women sessions and running brilliant coaching sessions from your company FirstWomen
  • Kim Wylie – for providing an inspiring and honest presentation as part of our ‘Inspiring Women’ session on your journey

 

Getting into the industry - quashing the stereotype - Olivia Longmore

Only five years ago, I probably never would have imagined that I would be working in a data role and I think much of this is down to the fact I did not know this type of job existed. Whilst studying human geography at university, I found myself drawn to modules that were focused around data analysis and understanding how this can be applied to decision making and understanding consumer behaviour.

I was fortunate in that my university used our coursework as a way to set work that we would potentially be given in a real life job, which gave me drive as I knew it was something I would really enjoy doing.

I believe jobs in data should be spoken about more heavily in schools and universities as I think more young women would want to work in these roles if they had more of an awareness that they existed. Alongside this, we really need to de-stigmatise the image around working with data. It is far more than simply sitting at a computer screen and staring at numbers. We use data to create insight and help companies make informed decisions. Additionally, we use data visualisation such as interactive maps and dashboards to show our analysis simply and effectively so that even those who aren’t data savvy in the slightest, can still understand the work we have produced.

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4 women celebrate the achievements and reflect on some of their experiences occurred last year.

Celebrating International Women’s Day