Skip to Content
Personal Insights
Author's profile photo Maren Kijewski

Why we need Girls and Women in Data Science

It´s not only about female empowerment, but also about the quality of our software to solve problems.

Our tech industry still has a long way ahead towards a diverse mix of genders in its workforce and leading positions. In order to empower women, we need to invest in an attractive education from early on, in career opportunities and in breaking stereotypes. Women in Data Science does all that. And more. It goes beyond being fair towards women and finally getting the percentages right. We need women in data science to ensure the quality of the software we create to solve problems. Here is why.

Women%20in%20Data%20Science%20-%20Business%20Meeting

Within the SAP ecosystem, we know about the power of software and what problems it can solve. But working with data also bears risks and has an impact on society. By the concept of datafication, social action is quantified into digital data. It´s become natural in our world. We see it in our daily life as by how people track their sports or how they share their love with friends on social media. Organizations use this data in predictive analytics, as part of their sense making process, and to make business decisions on how to develop products or build their relationships with customers.

A majority of society perceives data as neutral and not harmful. José van Dijk (1), a well-known scholar from the University of Amsterdam, calls this phenomenon “dataism” and stresses the trust that is put into institutional agents who collect, analyze, and share the data. Dataism is characterized by a “widespread belief in objective quantification and potential tracking of all kinds of human behavior and sociality through online media technologies”. Being part of the tech industry, collecting data, writing algorithms for predictive analytics, making decisions on how results are displayed for business decisions – it brings us all in a very powerful position and trust is put upon us to act responsibly. “With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility” as Uncle Ben Parker would say.

Women%20in%20Data%20Science%20-%20Coding

How can we live up to that responsibility and power? How can we ensure that data collection, analyzation and reporting is neutral and not harmful? We can´t fully. Humans are the ones making the decisions on how data structures and codes are set up. Humans are not neutral; we are always biased with our individual perspective and knowledge of the world. But we can thrive to get closer – by integrating diverse perspectives, experiences, and knowledge to those working with the data and in the decision-making processes.

One example: data science goes as far as measuring emotions. There are scenarios for businesses on understanding customer satisfaction based on social media and customer conversation data. There are even scenarios for automated psychological treatment based on emotions, in easy form, think about relaxation trainings via apps. Data by default will not be able to represent the whole complexity of emotions. Not even psychologists understand all. How could data scientists develop the code and data structures to match reality? What is obvious though, is that one perspective is not enough to even try representing the truth. Or do you believe that the stereotype male data scientist working within experience management solutions will be able to also take female perspective´s on issues he might not know from his world. Like how a woman is impacted on her shopping experience if there are no ladies ‘parking spaces available later in the evening. Will software collect and analyze this experiential data correctly, if no one from her perspective was involved in the set-up of the collection and analyzation process?

Women%20in%20Data%20Science%20-%20Office

We need to integrate different perspectives and backgrounds to ensure the software we are producing represents real-world scenarios and can provide relevant solutions. For that and many other reasons we need more women in data science.

What is your opinion on the matter? What are the issues you find most relevant? I would be happy to see them in the comments! Or if you have a longer thought to share, maybe you can create a blog post yourself and link in the comments?

If this matter interests you, please feel invited to join us virtually for Women in Data Science @ SAP on May 25. Female data scientists will share their expertise and views on the most pressing matters of data science. From analytics to anonymization to data engineering. No matter where you are based, we will have relevant sessions in your time zones. Join if you want to educate yourself, if you want to meet inspiring women and above all, join so that we can implement these perspectives in our data structure and software that can make the world run unbiased and improve all people’s lives. Join women in data science around the world!

Women%20in%20Data%20Science%20@SAP

***

SAP´s Partnership with Women in Data Science

Stanford University’s Women in Data Science (WiDS) Worldwide aims to inspire and educate data scientists worldwide, regardless of gender, and to support women in the field. SAP has been a proud collaborator and sponsor of WiDS since 2016, on the mission to encourage women and girls to pursue careers in STEM.

With devoted programs from SAP University Alliances and Business Process Intelligence, SAP provides students and academia with access and trainings to business applications. Only as a community, we can develop the next generation of diverse talents – to help the world run better and improve people’s lives.

***

Related content: Lack of Diversity in Data Science Perpetuates AI Bias, siliconangle.com (United States) on March 9, 2022

***

Reference: (1) van Dijk, J. (2014). Datafiction, dataism and dataveillance: Big Data between scientific paradigm and secular belief. Surveillance & Society, 12(2), pp. 197-208.

***

Final note: this blog posts concentrates on the role of women in data science, but I would like to acknowledge that bringing in diverse backgrounds is not only about gender.

Assigned Tags

      7 Comments
      You must be Logged on to comment or reply to a post.
      Author's profile photo Lei Jacky
      Lei Jacky

      Why only in data science 🙂 Should all the areas like SW, education, management.

      Author's profile photo Maren Meyer
      Maren Meyer
      Blog Post Author

      Hi Lei Jacky, agreed! By no means this statement should be seen as limited to one area, it is just one area I picked for myself as I am involved with the topic. I also started to read the book "invisible women" by Caroline Criado-Perez who describes very well the different areas where more representation is needed, like e.g. health or city infrastructure.

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member

      I think we need girls everywhere they are part of our lives and society so why not at work place. We need them in all sorts of occupations only caveat is can we provide them an environment free of harassment. The responsibility lies on us men can we stand up for a woman against our own colleagues and boss if we see wrong like we would do for our mothers and sisters.

      I come from India and I see now many women driving cabs, working for food deliveries and it's really great to see them grow of course there are legends like Kiran Shaw mazumdar so many other females in corporate, movies, medicine, engineering in short the change is taking place at all socio-economic levels. The only problem is as men are we accommodating can we change our attitude and let them fly

      Regards,

      Prasenjit

      Author's profile photo Maren Meyer
      Maren Meyer
      Blog Post Author

      Hi Former Member, thank you so much for sharing your statement. It is wonderful to have allies, people standing up for another and maybe sometimes to just give a little positive statement to motivate others to spread their wings. I really like your metaphor with "let them fly"!

      I can count myself lucky that people did that to me. I encountered men as mentors and role models who supported me and gave me the power to fly. To every person who does that: Thank you! You make a difference!

      Author's profile photo Svea Becker
      Svea Becker

      Thanks sharing Maren Meyer, very interesting and valuable read!

      You may want to join the discussion I started in our SAP Women in Tech group: https://groups.community.sap.com/t5/sap-women-in-tech/gh-p/Women-in-Tech

      Looking forward to hearing your thoughts!

      Best, Svea

      Author's profile photo Maren Meyer
      Maren Meyer
      Blog Post Author

      Thanks Svea Becker. Will do so!

      Author's profile photo Michele Krom
      Michele Krom

      Thank you for sharing!