Women represent a large, untapped talent pool that can be leveraged to address the
critical shortage of expertise in data and analytics.
Data is everywhere, as are job postings for professionals with the skills necessary to derive value from massive amounts of data. However, the supply of professionals with these skills is not keeping pace with the requisite demand. Industry experts predict that by 2018, the shortage of analytic talent, in the US alone, could be as great as 1.7 million open positions without qualified candidates in the job market to fill them.
Although it is common knowledge that women are underrepresented in S.T.E.M. professions (science, technology, engineering, mathematics), women are well represented in traditional analytic professions; representing 50% of the labor force in Mathematics and Statistics.[i]
This puts women in a unique position to play a key role in addressing the existing gap in data and analytic expertise, as data science depend heavily on mathematics and statistics. Women represent a large, untapped talent pool that can be leveraged to address this expertise shortage.
The female brain is uniquely wired for analytics.
There is research emerging that suggests that the female brain is uniquely wired for analytics. In a robust study conducted at the University of Pennsylvania, researchers found that women's brains display superior connectivity between hemispheres, suggesting that the female brain is optimized for combining analytical and intuitive thinking[ii]. Those of us who perform analysis know that reason and intuition are synergistic. It is intuition from the right side of the brain that is used to form hypotheses, which are then proven or disproven by the left. The right hemisphere is as important as the left in extracting value from data.
The challenge for women is that data science requires programming and data management skills. Of all the S.T.E.M. disciplines, technology is where women are most notably absent and the situation is becoming increasingly worse:
- Women earn only 17% of the undergraduate degrees in Computer Science. This is down 54% from 1985, when women earned 37% of the Computer Science undergraduate degrees.[iii]
- Additionally, although women constitute 57% of the professional workforce, they hold only 25% of the professional computing occupations.[iv]
Here are two possible ways to enable women with a background in mathematics and statistics to add value in data science:
- Low-code or no-code platforms - there are solutions being developed that facilitate analytics without the user to have programming skills. These platforms allow individuals who aren't comfortable doing hands-on coding to perform advanced analytics.
- Collaborative Data Science - Given the complexity of 21st century business and technology, collaboration is increasingly a must. Ambient Intelligence's research shows that regardless of gender, data science requires a plethora of skills that are very seldom found in one individual. Identifying individuals' strengths and forming data science teams that have the skills required to successfully complete the project will effectively overcome skill deficits.
With regard to the collaborative approach to data science, I recently learned that women bring something very special to collaboration. At MIT's Center for Collective Intelligence, Professor Thomas Malone and his team are working on measuring the composite intelligence of a group of people, like a group IQ. Depending on the dynamics, a group can be either more or less intelligent than the individuals that comprise the group.
The more women on a team, the higher the team's collective intelligence.
Professor Malone found correlation between collective intelligence and the following three factors:
- Social Perceptiveness - an individual's ability to learn about others' feelings and emotions by picking up information from physical appearance, verbal, and nonverbal communication. Facial expressions, tone of voice, hand gestures, and body position or movement are just a few examples of ways people communicate without words.
- Equality of Participation - the ability for group members to participate equally in group discussions.
- Proportion of Females - the number of women participating in the group, relative to their male counterparts.
So, the higher the group member's emotional intelligence, the higher the groups collective intelligence. Likewise, the more empowered group members feel to participate equally in group discussions, the higher the groups collective intelligence. And finally, the more women on the team, the higher the groups collective intelligence. Professor Malone attributes this last observation to be directly tied to women possessing strong social perception skills.
In conclusion, women represent an untapped S.T.E.M. pool to help address the critical shortage of data and analytic expertise. Women are equally represented in Mathematics and Statistics, emerging research suggests that women's brains are optimized to perform analysis, and women's social perception skills make them strong collaborators, which is essential today in the field of data & analytics.
Therefore, women are well positioned to play a key role in driving the narrative as we enter the 4th Industrial Revolution, that of an abundance of ambient data from the Internet of Things.
The future is here! Are you ready?
[i] US Population Reference Bureau. Mathematicians and Statisticians in the United States, 2007. Available at http://www.prb.org/pdf08/scientistprofiles/occprof08_mathstats.pdf.
[ii] Brain Connectivity Study Reveals Striking Differences Between Men and Women. (December 2013) Available at http://www.uphs.upenn.edu/news/news_releases/2013/12/verma/.
[iii] National Center for Women and Information Technology. Women and Information Technology: By the Numbers, 2015. Available at https://www.ncwit.org/sites/default/files/resources/btn_03092016_web.pdf