The gender gap in technology is not a recent phenomenon; it has been a significant and consistent challenge for companies in the industry. While the number of technical and data-related roles has increased in recent decades, the gender gap is still remaining constant.
With only 22% of all AI professionals represented by women, there are significant opportunity costs associated with a lack of gender diversity. Inclusive teams, including those with more gender diversity, are on average more creative, innovative, and, ultimately, more profitable across sectors and geographies, and the tech industry is no exception.
We sat down with three leading women in data and analytics during the Miami Machine Learning and AI Meetup Week and asked them about their experience and advice on building more diverse data science teams:
- Francesca de Quesada Covey, Tech Innovation Advisor at Miami Dade County
- Laura Gabrysiak, Data Science Manager at Visa & Founder at R-Ladies Miami
- Selen Onel, Associate Director, Forecasting Analytics at Chewy
This article addresses what it means to be a woman in the industry, how to balance work, and the different ways through which women can get engaged to support each other as mentors or mentees.
What Does it Mean to Be a Woman in Tech?
Working in tech as a woman entails far more than just coding. Some jobs in technology don’t even need coding skills at all, such as data analysts, technical recruiters, software sales consultants, and project managers. Organizations increasingly support their female workforce to transition to a career in tech. To bring more women into tech roles, we need to invest in education, particularly in STEM education, which facilitates access to entry-level jobs. In addition to that, we should support inclusive HR policies at the workplace and organize and be a part of community events and meetups that support women in tech roles, says Laura Gabrysiak.
Sharing her experience as a woman in technology, Francesca de Quesada Covey resonates; negotiating for jobs remains one of the main challenges that keep women away from tech roles. Also, barriers women tech entrepreneurs face while raising capital for their business are another disadvantage. However, the tide is slowly changing as women increasingly support each other through community engagements.
How to Become a Successful Woman in Tech?
Given that the tech industry encompasses different roles, as mentioned above, opportunities are plenty for what it can mean to be a woman working in technology. Opting for any position in the tech sector can bring unique learning opportunities, which can open the doors to core technology roles. Selen Onel highlights the importance of constant learning of the latest industry practices, data structures, functional programming functions, cloud computing, and being aware of the latest trends in the tech space.
The essential qualities needed to be a successful data scientist are gender-neutral, including critical thinking, systematic approach, creativity, and intuitive business vision. However, the underlying truth remains: the data science profession has a startlingly low number of female role models. Organizations can do their part by doing away with a technical only filter, which includes the assessment of candidates based on their coding and technical skills, instead of additionally testing them on their aptitude, ability, and mindset, irrespective of their degrees, which could be a game-changer for attracting more qualified women to data science.
Seeking Mentorship with Purpose
Taking the plunge into a new tech-related career can be both exciting and frightening—this also applies to the women seeking out a career in tech or making a mid-life career transition. Women in tech, in particular, can benefit from mentoring as a way to build confidence, improve skills, and set realistic career goals.
Mentors can help mentees to expand and leverage their networks of personal and professional contacts through invitations, introductions, and suggested organizations to join. Furthermore, having a mentor prepares women to one day step into the female mentorship role themselves and support other women build their professional careers in the tech industry, says Laura Gabrysiak.
The digital transformation opens up new opportunities for women's economic empowerment and can help to achieve greater gender equality. Closing the gender gap will take years. However, we must encourage women to pursue STEM education, mentor them, promote more gender-balanced financing, particularly those receiving public funds, including venture capital, nurture networking, and establish a welcoming and inclusive workplace.