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We are the women behind the numbers

  • Posted on June 7, 2022
  • Estimated reading time 3 minutes

Off all the data points women working in data and analytics come across, this is one of the most personally relevant: While women comprise 59% of the U.S. workforce, they represent 17% of the data and analytics field.  

Helping to close that gap was one of the aims of a recent webinar I hosted. I was joined by three Avanade data and analytics colleagues to talk about what drew them to the field and why inclusion and diversity matters. Morgan Stewart is a Data Engineering consultant who became interested in data while using regression analysis as part of her Master’s in economics. Jackie Terrazas-Lopez is a consultant in Advanced Analytics who is an Avanade scholar and a first-generation college graduate who built her own computer as a teenager. And Diana Villegas is a Data Engineering manager who changed course from teaching in Romania to consulting in the United States. 

I opened the discussion with another powerful data point: diversity within an organization correlates to profitability. All the panelists agreed that having diverse perspectives provides better insight and drives better business outcomes and decisions, even when it comes to numbers, which allegedly don’t lie. Let me show you why. 

Before I moved to consulting, I worked in the insurance industry for several years. If you look solely at the data, you would see that while many more males than females die each year in fatal car accidents, females are more likely than males to be killed or injured in crashes of equal severity.  You might want to adjust insurance rates to reflect that, until you also realize that, until recently, most cars were designed and tested for men and by men. It is not necessarily that women are worse drivers, but they are in cars that are less likely to protect them. 

So, diversity is important, and women in data and analytics are few and far between. How, then, is Avanade achieving 41% of new hires as women in a world of scarcity? The answer is culture, and the panelists talked about how they each experienced it in their own unique ways. 

Diana said, “Coming from Romania with a completely different background, experience and culture, I was afraid I might not find my place here. But Avanade is a great promoter of diversity and understanding. It’s the birthplace for innovation and change. I found great support through the Avanade Women Employee Network (AWEN). These accomplished women gave me great advice on how to manage my career.” 

Having a network to turn to is important, agreed Jackie. “I didn’t have a role model in the tech space, so I ask a lot of questions; I’m very curious about things. I wanted a place where I felt supported, where I can raise my hand, ask questions and have them answered. I found that support here. I am also a big advocate for more Latinos in Tech. I love the support from the Adelante network, where we can talk about cultural issues with people who come from similar backgrounds. I appreciate the diversity of thought here.” 

For Morgan Stewart, having a wide variety of professional opportunities has made Avanade the best choice for her. “I love how working at Avanade we’re given resources to pivot from engineering to visualization to management,” she said, even while acknowledging that imposter syndrome is still part of her. “What I keep in mind is that there is a lot of power in my internal mental state. I try to reframe my thoughts—instead of dwelling on a mistake, I look at how to prevent such mistakes going forward. You have to be your best advocate.” 

The diversity of backgrounds, learning styles, and opportunities makes Avanade a good place for women in data and analytics—once we can get them through the door. One of the ways we are strengthening our efforts to bring more women into the field is by hiring and training them through our Avanade Data Engineering Academy. We’re looking for 20 women who may or may not have experience in data engineering and who are willing to spend a couple of weeks learning Azure Data Engineering, Azure PaaS Services, Azure Data Integration and Transformation. We are accepting applications through July 3 for an August 1 start date. 

As a data scientist, I know that numbers don’t tell the full story, and that’s why we need people to provide context and help us make sense of what we see. When it comes to the correlation between diversity and productivity, I think Diana described the connection beautifully: 

People do great when they feel seen, valued, and appreciated for what they have and what they can deliver. They are more productive and creative.  

We’re looking forward to seeing a new group of women data engineers and giving them the tools and space so they can create, produce, and see what they can deliver. 

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