By Sophie Hiscock, Graduate Consulting Analyst at TrueCue

female data scientist, woman leading teamWhile the technology industry is forward thinking in terms of its efforts to support the ‘new normal’ – becoming a force for good in many ways at this time – it still has a way to go in terms of actively encouraging women to explore a career in technology.

Recent research by PwC, carried out across A-Level and university students, found that only 27% of female students would consider a career in technology, compared to 61% of males, with the main reason being the lack of information, advice and role models for women.

To help bridge the gender diversity gap, it is critical – particularly at a time when students are considering their future – that misconceptions around women working in technology are resolved.

In light of this, I want to share my personal experience of working in technology, how I navigated a path in the data analytics industry as a Philosophy and Economics graduate and ultimately how analytics enable us to make a positive difference to the world.

Entering the technology industry

Studying Philosophy and Economics at university inspired me to pursue a career in data and analytics as both subjects demand rigorous thinking and the ability to apply theory to real-world problems, skills that are central to anyone who works with data in business contexts.

That being said, the technology industry is increasingly diverse in terms of the academic and professional backgrounds of employees. If you do not have academic experience that specifically relates to technology, do not worry. As long as you have an interest in analytics and an aptitude for numbers, you will quickly be able to grow in this sector. A formal background in Maths and Data Science is helpful, but these skills can easily be learnt independently.

Attending bootcamps and online courses can be a great way of understanding whether the technology industry is for you. When I was at university, I enrolled in a programme called ‘Code First Girls’ – a bootcamp taught by women with careers in technology, offering free coding lessons in Python among other languages. Many of the female teachers I came across did not come from STEM backgrounds and speaking to them helped me realise the range of work available to me.

In this way, having female role models is another critical factor in increasing the number of women looking to get into technology. I was lucky to have met some amazing women throughout my university courses and internships. If you are stuck for people to answer your questions at this socially distanced time, I would suggest reaching out to industry experts via platforms such as LinkedIn or LeanFurther which connects young women with professionals in different industries.

Looking beyond the stereotypes

There are vast misconceptions about what working in technology actually involves. When I first started at TrueCue I quickly learnt that working in data is not always about the technical side, being able to communicate well both with the client directly and through visualisations is central.

This balance is reflected in what I do on a daily basis. For example, a typical project for me will begin with requirements gathering, data scoping, data preparation and analysis and will culminate in a visual presentation of the data through a series of dashboards that clients can interact with. Having both the sensitivity and technological experience to fully understand and help the client are key components of working in data and analytics.

Since my time at TrueCue I have worked on many ‘tech for good’ projects, including one with a company operating in the pharmaceutical industry. On this project, I designed an app to help doctors and nurses working in different healthcare facilities to plan for the uptake of a particular drug. This app ensured doctors would be able to plan out resourcing, while taking into account the rate at which patients tend to miss appointments. Speaking directly with stakeholders working in hospitals helped me appreciate how – beyond improving business performance – the work I was doing could improve people’s lives.

Breaking down the barriers

The technology industry is constantly finding new ways to improve people’s lives and with companies becoming increasingly outspoken about the need for greater diversity, we should look forward to more improvements in the future.

To become “Women in Data”, girls and young women must be provided with more information about the amazing work available to them and already done by women in the tech industry. On top of this, a variety of resources are publicly available that everyone, regardless of their academic background, can take advantage of to improve their skillsets and open up more career opportunities.

Technology is open to everyone, no matter their gender, skin colour or background and we must do all we can to elevate this message. To play our part in this at TrueCue we are running a campaign to provide hands-on experience, advice and resources to women considering careers in the industry. Our first event will be a Hackathon on a COVID-19 dataset where participants will have the chance to grow their skills and meet others interested in analytics – please stay tuned to our social media channels for further information.

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