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We Need More Women in Data Science (and Our Plan to Get There!)

Despite a global conversation about the underrepresentation of women in tech, statistics still demonstrate a male-dominated industry. As of 2018, while women made up over half of the workforce, they hold only 24% of tech jobs worldwide (Honeypot).

A deep rooted issue 

With many initiatives to bring women into the field and increasing numbers of women STEM graduates, the retention rate remains at the forefront of issues in this lack of diversity. The quit rate for women is over twice that of men in the  technology industry (NCWIT). Why? USA Today reports that “Toxic workplaces — where harassment, stereotyping and bullying occur — are driving away women and people of color, undercutting technology companies' efforts to increase diversity and costing an estimated $16 billion a year.” Not only does this alarming trend present a clear disadvantage for women, but tech companies themselves are also losing profits. This pervasive inequality requires reformation beyond simply increasing recruitment efforts or quotas for women.

Our work to close the tech gender gap so far

At Le Wagon, our mission is to teach tech skills to all. And for us to fulfill this mission, we believe that gender parity is essential. Since our Montréal launch in 2017, we have steadily increased the number of women in our bootcamp cohorts from 11% to 50%+. But in addition to recruiting more women for our programs, we are also tackling the retention problem in the best way we know how - by creating and contributing to a supportive community of women in tech. 

Having women mentors, role-models, and colleagues creates better company cultures and a space to both express and resolve concerns, addressing the currently elevated quit rate.

The status of women in data

As Le Wagon launches its new Data Science bootcamp, we look to bring our same gender parity efforts to the data community. In 2020, Burtch Works recruitment agency found that just 18% of data scientists are women.  The inequality issue begins in university and increases with specialization, according to a recent study conducted by BCG.

And women make great data scientists. As explained by Forbes, “women are more aware of risk… furthermore, women tend to excel at communication, team nurturing, and problem solving (internally and with clients), all of which are necessary qualifications to be a strong CDO or team leader in the field of data.” Yet, the field that the Harvard Business Review boasted as offering the “sexiest job of the 21st century,” loses 30% of qualified potential candidates in the process of moving from STEM degree holder to data science professional.

Working together for change

To combat these discouraging figures and encourage women in all stages of their careers, groups such as Women in Machine Learning and Data Science (WiMLDS) and Women in AI (WAI) work tirelessly to promote women in the field through talks, events, hackathons, and workshops. 

Sharing Le Wagon’s global mindset, WiMLDS now runs over 30 chapters around the world and WAI is present in 115 countries. 

United by our shared vision of gender parity in data science, we have partnered with WiMLDS Montréal and WAI Montréal to organize Women's Data Days. 

Women's Data Days are half-day workshops to encourage women to dive into the field by learning the basics of programming with Python, a popular data science language. It's a great opportunity to get immersed in the daily life of a Data Scientist through concrete business cases using datasets from the real world.

By building an open and inclusive network and encouraging women to enter the tech sphere through free introductory courses we can work towards a diverse and balanced field.

Looking to the future 

With plenty of evidence that gender diversity generates more revenue, boosts business performance, and creates more innovative companies, encouraging women to enter and stay in the tech industry clearly benefits all parties. Through active efforts from all tech companies, we have the power to create an inclusive environment and provide the tools women need to thrive - furthering not only their success, but the success of the tech industry as a whole.

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