With the Fourth Industrial Revolution well underway, a mind-boggling amount of data is being generated, stored and analyzed day by day and has an increasing impact on our economy, workforce, culture, and society. Our collective and individual experience of reality is shaped by data.
But who is responsible for all that data? We collectively generate data, but as it stands, women account for only 26% of data and AI positions in the world’s workforce, with the gender gap continuing to widen at the executive level. This is a worrying state when we are already aware of the consequences of data bias in recruitment, healthcare and finance.
Women in data have never been more critical in our data-driven world. Thankfully, there are female leaders who are making significant contributions to the field and paving the way for the next generation, including our own co-founder Neha Narkhede. Although we need more women in the field of data, for International Women’s Day I’d like to honor those who are making a difference in the field of data today.
1. Closing the gender gap
While the industry does have an image problem among STEM graduates who see it as too theoretical and without purpose, there are a growing number of international initiatives championed by tech giants like Salesforce, Microsoft and Google – and backed by encouragement from the World Economic Forum – that aim to promote gender equality in the sector.
Accomplished women like Fei-Fei Li, founder of the Stanford AI lab, and Cathay O’Neil, author of Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy, have been doing impressive work to strengthen diversity in the field for several years. More and more women are joining their ranks in serving as role models and mentors to inspire girls and young women to chase career opportunities in data and AI.
Closing the gender gap goes beyond adjusting recruitment processes and setting gender diversity targets. Leaders must make sure that their company culture allows women to feel able to speak up and offer the kind of crucial insights that will offer their organization a competitive advantage. Research shows that teams willing to rethink approaches based on the input of female employees are twice as likely to tap into winning ideas.
With more women leaders in the sector, we can create opportunities for female contribution to flourish in ways that organizations won’t be able to ignore.
2. Advocating for diversity in data
Women are also advocating for diversity and inclusion in data, challenging the gender biases that exist. Thanks to the growing presence of women, organizations are taking action to prevent data bias and offer alternative perspectives when creating algorithms from big data. Pre-determined algorithms influence every aspect of our lives, from HR to healthcare, so it’s vital that women are a part of their creation to avoid exacerbating the gender gap already present in these areas.
What’s more, women are boosting businesses’ performance, with research showing that those companies in the top 25% for gender diversity are 15% more likely to exceed financial goals. In fact, the most successful tech startups have twice as many women in senior positions than less successful tech startups.
At Confluent, we're investing in diversity through employee resource groups that empower our people throughout the company to action and promote inclusion through events, programs and other initiatives. Granting power to our female employees means that we’re seeing more success in terms of boosting awareness of issues and creating a culture that truly values gender diversity.
3. Driving data and innovation
Women in data are leveraging their skills and talent to develop innovative solutions that solve complex problems, bringing fresh ideas to the table that will help to mold the future of data and analytics.
Companies need to get serious about improving gender diversity in data teams if they hope to target a growth market that controls $20 trillion in global consumer spending. Gender-diverse data teams are more likely to create a customer analytics ecosystem that considers what female end-users want, enabling businesses to offer them a better service.
New data-driven businesses are emerging that are solving women’s needs that have previously been overlooked. Take Celematix. Aiming to tackle the issues of ovarian ill-health affecting one in three women, the US-based biotech applies big data and genomics to empower female users with personalized insights about their reproductive health. Celematix uses Confluent to stream electronic medical record data securely and in real time to help doctors and patients make data-informed decisions faster.
Opportunities in data for women
A report by the World Economic Forum found that 91% of employers plan to adopt user and entity big data analytics, with data analysts and scientists ranking in the top ten emerging jobs. Many organizations are just beginning their data journeys and waking up to the value gender diversity can offer.
But while progress is being made in increasing the number of women working in data, there is still a significant gender gap. Organizations and individuals need to continue to work towards creating more opportunities for women in data. By doing so, we can create a more diverse and inclusive industry that benefits everyone.