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Women in Data 2018 conference

17th December 2018 by Emily Davies | Data, News & Events

Last month, Yard data scientist Emily Davies attended the Women in Data 2018 (WiD 2018) conference. Here’s what she had to say! 

It was so uplifting to see that there was such a high demand for tickets, with 1,000 female data professionals in attendance, and a big waiting list for those who missed out. To accommodate the high demand, the venue even had to be upgraded to the fantastic Central Hall in Westminster, the largest event venue in central London. 

The conference was opened by WiD UK co-founders Roisin McCarthy and Rachel Keane, who have more than 26 years of experience in the digital world. According to the WiD website, they have “seen the discipline of analytics evolve to become a cornerstone of many businesses and organisations from being a subset of many departments in the past”.

The opening talk by Rosin and Rachel was that of a welcome, and about how WiD community has grown exponentially (excuse the math pun) over the past few years. We then got introduced to the Managing Director and Chair of WiD, Payal Jain, “dedicated champion of data and diversity“. 

Following the introductions, the morning sessions were split into talks by Lizz Trust, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, and Helen Hunter, Group CDO Sainsbury’s Group. The two women are at the top of their game but surrounded by males in the workplace.  

Liz’s talk was about the known fact that women in data, and STEM in general, are extremely underrepresented. Some of the shocking facts and figures from Liz were:

  • There is only a 17% female representation in the technology/engineering field and only 27% female representation in data
  • 70% of boys who achieve an A at GCSE, go on to do A Level Mathematics, in comparison to just 30% of girls who achieve an A at GCSE, going to do A Level Mathematics

The question was raised, why are so many girls who are just as capable as boys, choosing not to further their study in Mathematics or STEM?  

Although these figures are rising, and we are moving in the right direction, we have a responsibility as women in STEM to promote the amazing opportunities in our field to the younger generation. We need to lead by example, inspire them, and show that they can achieve great things too.  

Both Liz and Helen gave inspiring talks, but one of the stand-out quotes from the day, for me, was from Helen. She explained how throughout her career, she never felt good enough to go for the managerial or directorial jobs, which as women, I think many of us can relate to. Helen then went on to talk about feeling frustrated when being advised to ‘just be more confident’, which again, I can relate to. You can’t just be more confident, so better advice would have been ‘learn to be courageous, feel the fear and do it anyway’ – a quote I will be using from now on.  

After lunch, I was eager to attend the Deep Learning in R with Keras talk, hosted by Mango Solutions. As we’ve started using Keras here at Yard, I was pretty excited to get some different ideas and approaches for solving different types of neural network problems.  

The session was fantastic and really informative – I can’t wait to start installing some of the methodologies discussed on our own neural networks. After the talk, Mango Solutions gave us access to a GIT repo with tons of workbooks, R scripts and data. Thank you!  

Overall, the Women in Data 2018 conference was a great day. So many inspirational and powerful women leading by example. I can’t wait to see what next year brings. Thanks to all involved. 

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