Why exactly do we need an International Women's Day?
The fact that we’ve just celebrated International Women’s Day got us talking in the office and we have to say, we hate International Women’s Day! No, we’re not all white men here, nor are we misogynists and yes, we are being a little cheeky in an attempt to get you to read on. The truth is, International Women’s Day shouldn’t have to exist. There should just be gender equality and women should never be perceived any differently to men. It is a sad indictment of our society that we have to create a platform to highlight something that should go without saying. Unfortunately, we do still live in a world where we need an International Women’s Day to highlight the, often large, disparities when it comes to gender equality. What a day like this does do is start conversations. In our office it led to a discussion on gender diversity within our industry and data marketing in general.
Data marketing is often stereotyped as the domain of the awkward white male and as a small office with a ratio of 2 men to 1 woman it got us talking about whether there is any truth to the stereotype. Our office definitely has more men but does it follow that the majority of data analysts are men? I know that my colleagues have all worked on data teams where there was a higher percentage of women. My experience has always been of the area being more male dominated.
Believe it or not, in the early days of data science women dominated the industry. Anyone that happens to have seen the film Hidden Figures will know that prior to the electronic computer there were human ones. These mathematical geniuses performed extremely complex calculations using trigonometry, advanced calculus and geometry. The work itself was considered to be dull and repetitive and so perfectly suited to women. (I know I know, this was just the thoughts of the time). As the forerunners of the computers we know today began to fill the market, women remained dominant in the field, creating code, analysing data and maintaining the computers. However, women were paid less than their male counterparts and forbidden from climbing the corporate ladder. Following strikes demanding equal pay the government began to remove women from technical positions to be replaced by men, who were perceived to have better abilities when it came to complex technical work and managing people.* Since then data science has been a male dominated industry.
Sadly, on doing research into this topic we have seen that women are still very underrepresented in data science with Women in Data UK stating that male analysts and scientists outnumber females 4 to 1. The tide has turned but it remains a slow steady increase. Partly this has been down to a lack of encouragement in girls/women pursuing a career in STEM fields. From childhood you still see a trend in boys getting toys such as lego, cars and science sets while girls are steered towards dolls, kitchens and tea sets. This doesn’t set a great precedent for later educational interests. From an early age we need to be teaching children that they can do or be anything they want. Fortunately, this is finally starting to happen and schools are making an effort to encourage young girls to take an interest in STEM fields to help them to develop the skills that will allow them break into tech fields like data science.
It could look on the face of it like our office represents the gender divide in this industry but we like to think we’re living the change we want to see, cheesy as it sounds. The men in this office are fathers of daughters and they want to see them encouraged to do anything they want to. One has an older daughter who has completed a Bachelors of Science degree and the other (having read the above) has just been ranting with me on the state of gender bias in children’s toys. His daughter prefers building with duplo to playing with dolls.
I have to say, as the only woman in the office, that the attitudes of the men here are definitely encouraging for a future where there is no gender bias. I have never been made to feel like there is a ceiling on what I can achieve and as a bonus, I’m never expected to make the tea, that’s Chris’ job!
*Aspects taken from datasciencecentral.com article ‘On Being a Female Data Scientist’