While it’s a well accepted fact that diversity in workplace brings in more innovation, the companies are still catching up with gender equality and diversity in most industries. Though women are clambering up the success ladder, there still seems to be a gap between the number of men and women in the workplace. This gap intensifies further as the scale of leadership increases. While that may seem a little disappointing, the good news is that many women are breaking stereotypes and ruling their domains with much aplomb.
And talking about the analytics industry, which remains a very niche player, there are lot of women leaders to drive inspiration from. Starting from founding startups in the space to holding important position in legacy players in the market, these women are ruling the numbers and data crunching game.
On Gender Diversity in the industry-
Taking a note on diversity in the industry, Vanitha D’Silva, Head, Data Science and Analytics, Oxigen says “I have to admit I never really thought about diversity in analytics. Maybe the 1:10 ratio during my engineering days conditioned me, so it wasn’t odd that I was the only woman in a team.”
She further adds that “In India more girls are pursuing technology and engineering over the years, which is one of the reasons for a 1:5 representations in analytics today.” Vanitha comes with more than a decade of experience in the world of data science and she self admittedly gets a kick from identifying patterns and solving complex problems. At Oxigen, she works to realize the mission of financial inclusion by building scalable data solutions.
Agreeing to the point of lesser number of women in Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics, Iqbal Kaur, Co-founder and Chief of Analytics, DataXylo says “Women make up half the population, yet the lack of women in STEM is well documented and is discouraging”. She also notes that there are lesser female analytics leader and few women speakers in analytics conferences. Iqbal Kaur is a hands on industry leader across Retail & Consumer Analytics. She has held variety of leadership roles across GE, Target, Lowes in her career spanning over 20 years.
Sanchita Sur, Founder and CEO at Emplay Inc. comments “From creating the first analytical engine in the 1800’s (Ada Lovelace) to leading the biggest name in AI (IBM CEO – Ginni Rometty), women have always prominently contributed to the field of analytics.” An entrepreneur, author, blogger and a speaker in the field of data analytics, Sanchita Sur has held consulting, sales and leadership positions in her career of 16 years. She confesses to being passionate about the possibility of AI and intelligent bots in the enterprise world, her work with sales bot at Emplay is a testimony to that fact.
Radhika Kulkarni, Vice President, Advanced Analytics R&D, SAS Institute Inc., echoes the same thought. “We are at an exciting time for women interested in a career in analytics. While there are still fewer women than men in the analytics industry as a whole, we are starting to see more women in critical leadership roles – at both major multinational companies (IBM, Ford, Verizon, BNSF) and professional organizations.”
At SAS, Dr. Kulkarni oversees software development in many analytical areas such as Statistics, Operations Research and Data Mining. She is an active member at INFORMS and serves on the Advisory Board of many prestigious universities across the globe.
Pointing out an interesting relation between women and data, Swati Gautam, Analytics and Data Lead at United Spirits Limited says “Data & Analytics came naturally to me and it talks to me. It talks to most women who run kitchen, cook and run households. This is the time when women are utilizing their natural appetite for numbers in business world.” A student for life, Swati Gautam is a Computer Science graduate complimented by EMBA from IIMB. Starting her career 20 years back as a developer making reports to setting up Data & Analytics for organizations, her story truly inspires women folks in the industry.
On how has industry evolved in terms of welcoming women leaders?
Iqbal Kaur says “Given the fact now that analytics is a key fabric of any organization, it provides a great entry point for women to enter the corporate leadership”. She further adds, “No doubt, every viable organization is craving for fresh blood of thinkers who are more data driven with enough emotional intelligence to strike a balance in this age of automation. And women are making strides in this field.”
Vanitha has the same line of thoughts as she thinks that diversity has improved as companies adapt more flexible work policies that support our life choices. “This has enabled many women to start a career in this industry and take on leadership roles”, she notes.
Giving an insight on the recognition that Fortune magazine made last year, Sanchita Sur says “the report suggested that women are outperforming in entrepreneurial success across industries including technology. So, there is no doubt that we are in a great place from a gender representation perspective in the analytics domain.”
“There are a number of factors that have impacted why women are getting more involved in the Analytics workforce – from an increase in educational and training opportunities to companies providing greater flexibility”, says Dr. Kulkarni. She feels that women have natural and innate abilities to navigate the world of algorithms and analytical modelling to help find solutions.
Dr. Kulkarni, a Master’s in Maths from IIT Delhi and Master’s & PhD in Operations Research from Cornell University, has an interesting story on how she got into this field. She says “From my childhood, my parents were very proud that I was good at math – no one ever commented on the fact that I was also a girl! When I started high school and ended up being the only girl in the math class, we took it in stride and did not make a big deal of it – Radhika likes math and she is in the math class. That was it!”
On women competency-
That’s an interesting perspective on why women should make an equally competent part in the industry. “Their innate intuition, adept storytelling and sharp analytical skills make them invaluable contributors to solving complex business problems”, says Vanitha.
Iqbal says that analytics in beyond mathematics or statistics – areas where historically men have greater contribution. “Women’s ability to connect more across left and right brain hemispheres, makes them better at generating ideas and solutions”, she notes. “With women’s powerful analytic skills, it’s no surprise that women are powerfully positioned to help meet the current & future talent gap.”
Dr. Kulkarni brings an interesting perspective. She says that “During my Master’s program at IIT, it was amazing that my class had 7 women out of the small class of 14 students! Likewise, my PhD class had 5 women out of a total of about a dozen students. With that kind of an experience, I have never noticed that there may be more men than women in my field. We are all just members of the analytics community!”
On a concluding note-
Iqbal Kaur, who is also an avid mountaineer and traveller, proudly admits that ““as a co-founder at DataXylo, we have maintained a high level of gender parity, equal pay and empowerment to women as much as male counterparts. Our overall female headcount is 45%, much higher than the industry average”.
Sanchita says “As a community we need to be less concerned with representation and be more ambitious about developing disruptive technologies. We need to pioneer areas that are unexplored and uncharted. That is what we should commit to when we celebrate “women in analytics” today.
Dr. Kulkarni concludes by saying that “My advice to young women entering the field of analytics is- Do not hold yourself back because you are a woman; you have earned the right to be in this area; use your strengths to build a strong team. This is a golden age to be part of this domain!”
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Srishti currently works as Associate Editor for Analytics India Magazine. When not covering the analytics news, editing and writing articles, she could be found reading or capturing thoughts into pictures.