From a San Francisco Bay Area perspective it was nothing new: A clutch of hip tech types drifting through an innovation lab sipping merlot, downing sliders and debating hyperpersonalization and the connected car. What was different about the scene was that women made up roughly 95 percent of the crowd.
Co-sponsored by The Hive and Verizon Ventures (which provided the venue, featuring bird’s eye views of the Bay Bridge and the Ferry Building), the Women in Data Science meetup focused less on the term data science — after all, referring to data science as “sexy” has devolved into a Silicon Valley drinking game — and more on the data science toolbox.
The attendees were mostly millennials, and they were impressively savvy about the data science companies creeping into Silicon Valley like fog from the bay. Hummus and veggies and a chardonnay in tow, I listened in on conversations that spanned regression models, Git, identity masking, the pros and cons of Spark, chatbots and the new Nvidia chip. These were heads-down, hard-working and handy grrrlz. Indeed, many of them were self-taught programmers who’d stumbled into data science and intended to stay.
They were also hungry for industry buzz, networking opportunities and career advice. Despite amplified attention on STEM careers and female-led startups, the only thing favoring women at most Bay Area tech events is the lack of restroom queues. The Hive and Verizon Ventures are two of a handful of firms making connections with and between women in tech, providing a forum for news, referrals and future gatherings.
But when it comes to data science, women actually might have an edge. It turns out the “Best Job in America” is also one of the hardest to fill. Companies desperate to hire data scientists are less interested in their candidates’ career pedigrees and educational bona fides, instead targeting the tricky mix of skill sets they need to wrangle, analyze and provision their data. The novelty of the job title and the accompanying tools means that most candidates are on equal footing in the interview process.
And yet. A woman raised her hand during our panel Q&A. “I go back to work after putting my kids to bed,” she shared. “How do I stop feeling so guilty?”
“What a refreshing question from a woman,” I replied. “I usually get it from men!” We all laughed, and then laughed that we were laughing. Clearly women in data science are not only bright, tech-savvy and engaged — they have an appreciation for the absurd.
Jill Dyché has been thinking, writing, and speaking about the interrelationship of strategy, analytics, and data for most of her career. As a management consultant and executive advisor, she’s helped companies through the change that accompanies innovation.
Jill is the author of four books about the business value of technology. Her latest,The New IT, profiles IT leaders who have driven significant transformations at their companies. The book was named one of Inc’s "60 Great Business and Leadership Books Written by Women."
Jill was the co-founder of Baseline Consulting, a data and analytics strategy firm that was acquired by SAS in 2012. Jill now counsels executive teams, managers, and boards of directors on the strategic importance of their technology investments.
Jill is regularly featured as a keynote speaker at prominent industry conferences, university programs and vendor events. Her first book, e-Data, has been published in eight languages. She is the author of The CRM Handbook, a best-seller (and featured in CIO magazine), and Customer Data Integration: Reaching a Single Version of the Truth, featured stories of customer loyalty programs at companies including Royal Bank of Canada, Amgen, Intuit, Ceasars Entertainment, and Overstock.com.
A popular blogger on CIO.com and an advice columnist for TDWI’s UPSIDE, Jill was recently named one of the "12 Most Influential Women in Big Data and Data Science" by Information Week, one of Retail Leader’s "2017 Women to Watch," and by KDNuggets as one of "18 Inspiring Women in AI, Big Data, Data Science and Machine Learning."
Jill sits on the boards of Klearly, a prescriptive intelligence platform for marketers, and Continuum Animal Health. She is also Executive Director of,a href=https://www.outtathecage.org>Outta the Cage, a shelter animal advocacy non-profit. Her recent e-book, "Big Data, One Dog at a Time," argues for the digitization of the animal shelter system. She lives in Los Angeles, where she samples fringe Cabernets, fosters shelter dogs and pens the occasional haiku.
The opinions expressed in this blog are those of Jill Dyché and do not necessarily represent those of IDG Communications Inc. or its parent, subsidiary or affiliated companies.