Data Scientists are in high demand in the UK, but the demographics show a huge gender imbalance: only 13% of STEM workers in the UK identify as female. There are a number of reasons behind this, but as a former arts student now working in IT, one theory identified in a recent Harnham interview caught my interest. Apparently girls often choose to study the arts rather than STEM subjects as they progress through the education system because they are attracted to ‘creative’ jobs. What isn’t being advertised is that many ‘technical’ roles in IT require both technical expertise AND a creative mindset, making skilled women perfectly suited to jobs they may never have considered.
Campaigns like Microsoft’s Data Scientist Bootcamp, which they and their partners – including DSP – have released for International Women’s Day 2019, are a huge step in the right direction. I’ll explain the scheme further in, but the campaign aims to open doors for women by enabling them to make a career change into Data Science.
Imbalance starts early…
The question is, when 80% of UK IT firms plan to hire a Data Scientist in 2019, why does the role appear to attract so few women? The answer may lie in something as simple as the common misconception that women use their brains creatively, instead of technically.
This assumption unfortunately starts well before young women reach the workplace. The university degrees that typically lead to Data Science roles (according to KDnuggets) are still heavily male dominated. This imbalance is slowly correcting itself within UK Higher Education, but HE reports show that there is plenty to still be done: of more than 96,000 students starting Computer Science courses in 2015, only 16,505 were female. Maths fared somewhat better with 16,065 women to a 27,080 male majority, but the ratio is still far from even. Unfortunately, this imbalance persists after Higher Education.
In the Industry
IT has always been a male-dominated industry, a fact which is changing, but slowly. I am not surprised to sit as the only female in my office of 10, and in a marketing role rather than a technical one, but I am excited at the prospect of my company and this industry becoming more diverse.
One way to encourage this change is to break down the misconceptions between purely ‘technical’ versus ‘creative’ subjects and job roles. Data Science roles involve a variety of skills; coding, programming, and machine learning are clearly aspects of the job which require technical education and expertise. Business acumen, communication skills, and intellectual curiosity however, do not.
Possessing the relevant technical knowledge AND the skills to communicate it to non-technical departments is a valuable combination, and one which is only available to people who are proficient in both technical and creative capacities. The IT industry needs to begin advertising the creative side of many of its roles, as well as the technical, STEM-driven skills that it requires, to invite more applicants who are technically proficient and also crave creativity in the workplace.
What’s being done?
This year for International Women’s Day, Microsoft have asked their partners to take a step in the right direction to redress this gender imbalance by offering 100 women a place at Data Science bootcamps across the UK. Each of these partners – Amido, ANS Group, BJSS, DevOps Group, Grey Matter, Kainos & Incremental, and DSP – will select ten applicants to attend an on-site bootcamp, which for DSP’s delegates will take place at our Basingstoke office.
Successful delegates will complete the first module in Microsoft’s Professional Programme qualification in Data Science. They will receive the certificate for the first of these modules for free and continue to study the rest of the modules online over the course of six months, after which they will be invited to attend a recruitment day with that host partner.
If you’re interested in applying for Microsoft’s Data Scientist bootcamp, head to https://www.microsoft.com/en-gb/athome/digitalskills/women-in-tech/ for more information and to sign up! Give your career a push in a new, exciting direction by embracing the creative side of technology.
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