I often receive phone calls from organizations, aspiring data scientists and reporters about whether data science would be a good career choice for women. My response is absolutely yes, for the following reasons:
Women are great contrarian thinkers. One goal of data science is to find unknown truths in a variety of data sources that add value to an organization. In my experience the best data scientists challenge existing assumptions and think differently. The very best data scientists are inquisitive: exploring, asking questions, doing “what if” analysis, questioning existing assumptions and processes.
Women are great communicators. The ability to effectively communicate data science results with decision-makers is paramount. While all data scientists have some grounding in the scientific method, computer science, modeling, statistics, data analytics, math and business acumen, the key skill that separates great from good data scientists is critical contrarian and analytical thinking along with the ability to communicate with both team members and organization leaders to achieve the goal of optimal decision-making.
Women are great team players. Data science is a team sport with many areas of expertise and strong communication and team-work skills are critical for high performing data science teams. Further, data scientists are part of a bigger team in any organization. This includes business and IT leaders, middle management and front-line employees.
In my experience, the best data scientists do not have the strongest technical skills. Rather, they are team players: professionals who love to play with data, spot trends and learn truths few others know. Most importantly, they have strong communication skills to help leaders – and all members of an organization – apply data science and analytic results to critical issues.
The goal is to use data science to help organizations turn data into information – information into knowledge and insights – and valuable, actionable insights into better decision-making and game changing strategies. Women have the potential to be among the best data scientists and I predict many will become effective future leaders in the profession.