The demand for big data continues across many industries. Virtually every business is coming to the realization that there is now a growing mountain of data that can be utilized for market insights. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 24% increase in demand for data analysis roles. The growing demand for big data experts creates opportunities where women can move past the glass ceiling and compete evenly with men. However, women may be slow to take advantage.[tweetthis]Big data demands continues across industries; but #women are slow to take advantage @Dollarhacks[/tweetthis]
Tech expert Gartner did some ground-breaking research in 2015 on the role of the CIO in the changing technical landscape, and found some surprising results:
- Women tend to be more pessimistic in their approaches to risk
- Female CIOs also tend to be more optimistic on the benefits of analysis
- Women were more likely to adopt performance metrics into their reporting
However, women were less likely to fill leading roles in either IT or supply-chain structures.
Why Fewer Women?
While it may be offensive to some to even suggest it, traditional women’s roles may still play a part in career choices. The fact is that only about 18% of science degrees go to women. That seems like an unacceptable statistic compared to men, considering that females represent 50% of the world population. Gender bias may also play a part if women are not given the same preferences as similarly-qualified male counterparts. While the real reasons for the gender gap are difficult to pin down, and no satisfactory research in that area has been done, the fact remains that women are underrepresented in big data and IT.
Moving in the Right Direction
However, there is an increasing recognition of the role of women in leadership roles. Females do represent more than 40% of statistics degrees, indicating it is not a “math” problem at all but a focus on business rather than IT specifically. However, such backgrounds can easily drive a shift to analytics from a leadership rather than an IT perspective. Women are considered to be more skilled at communications as well as nurturing in team building environments, as women rise to the challenge in many business roles emphasis on big data may rise with them. As the demand for more big data analysts resonates, more women will doubtless rise to the occasion.
More Women in Big Data
Considering it’s a relatively new area, there is not exactly a strong history of male leadership in the field, either. There’s a higher ratio of women in leadership roles than there is in IT. The impact of more women directing and leveraging big data processes could have a potentially greater impact than women performing big data analysis. Big data is ultimately about maximizing profits. A more profitable company has great value and insuring a company and its assets becomes more cost-effective. As technology and software improves to become user-friendly and less specialized, it opens doors for those with a sound business background but weaker IT credentials to join data teams. Tomorrow’s data experts may be less concerned with the algorithmic side of crunching numbers as applying techniques for gaining insight from the data and statistical models that are already proven and in place.
Data analysis is about recognizing patterns and asking the right questions. Data teams are tasked not with just processing information, but reaching solutions. Women are certainly every bit as capable of managing the process. Standards like OLAP on Hadoop are becoming familiar in business data and widely understood. Female business leaders have proven themselves time and again at efficiently utilizing, communicating, and improving business processes, so there is no need to question their ability to do the same with big data.
While there is presently a lack of women in data science roles, we must not forget that it is still an evolving technology, and female roles in science will likely evolve with it.