Championing Women in Data Science
Data systems need to be able to cope with data generated from a wide range of sources and data types. It’s equally important that diversity is promoted within the industry itself. That’s why championing the role of women in data science is such an important task as the industry looks to unlock opportunities for sectors and organisations in Malaysia and across the world.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution (IR4.0) is set to transform global economies, as connected technologies and digital transformation unlock new markets and opportunities for people and businesses around the globe. Providing availability of critical talent like data scientists is vital, and empowering and championing women in this role is a major path to delivering on that.
Despite a shortage in skills for the technical fields required to drive IR4.0, women globally still only account for 28% of engineering graduates and 40% of graduates in computer science and informatics. The International Day of Women and Girls in Science on the 11th February is designed to draw attention to this need, and promote and support women entering these critical industries.
At Sunway University Online, we’re passionate about supporting women into our Master of Data Science programme. We’re proud to deliver a 100% online approach that enables wider and more flexible access to this important education.
Because they often hold multiple responsibilities within families, this flexible study approach is particularly valuable for women as it provides a more convenient opportunity to balance existing commitments. Yet unlocking this opportunity isn’t just a valuable step for girls and women with ambitions of entering science, but a huge enabler to realise the economic value of IR4.0 for Malaysia, and countries around the world.
Powering opportunity with women in STEM
Science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) roles are the cogs which will keep our connected world turning. Everything from data scientists to engineers will be required to supercharge the potential of a connected global ecosystem driven by AI, machine learning, advanced engineering, and digital technologies.
Where we are, and where we need to be, demonstrates clear evidence of a gap that must be bridged. Analysis reveals that in cutting-edge fields such as artificial intelligence, only one in five professionals (22%) globally is a woman. We need to encourage more female scientists into these innovative and exciting areas.
The gap in data science may be wider still. Boston Consulting Group (BCG) research from 2020 indicates that as few as 15% of data scientists globally were women. That not only shows a shortfall in talent, but also an important potential pitfall in diversity. Having diverse groups of people inputting into data analysis and the development of AI algorithms can build in inherent bias which undermines the reliability of such systems. Diversity quite literally builds better technical solutions.
This workforce shortfall matters too, because without the talent, we can’t create the systems and insight we need to power a digital revolution expected to drive over USD 6.8 trillion of investment between 2020 and 2023.
There’s a clear pattern of participation that highlights the challenge in keeping women in science engaged and active in industries. BCG’s research shows women make up 55% of university graduates, 35% of STEM degrees, 25% of the STEM workforce, and 15-22% of data science professionals.
According to research by the World Economic Forum, in 7 out of 12 surveyed industries globally, data analysts and data scientists were the top-ranked roles that business leaders planned to hire in coming years. Big data and analytics talent represents one of the fastest growing demands for industry leaders, meaning data science jobs will need to be filled with skilled data scientists. More women in science means more capability to fill that huge demand.
Maintaining the progress in Malaysia
Malaysia has an impressive history of female participation in education, and, according to research by UNESCO, is one of the few countries where women have reached parity with men in terms of representation among research scientists and engineers. We should be proud of that progress, while working hard to maintain it.
Our own Master of Data Science programme is delivered by a fantastic female leader in the field—Dr Selina Low Yeh Ching. She is Senior Lecturer in the Department of Computing and Information systems, and a respected academic researcher in the field of applied and computational statistics. She is published in a number of international journals and publications, and has presented papers at international conferences on a range of data science topics.
There is still more work to be done in Malaysia, and it is our hope that programmes like our own 100% online Master of Data Science can offer an important piece in that puzzle. Ensuring continued access to education for all citizens across Malaysia is vital if we’re to meet the huge demand for these technical roles.
Women make up around 35% of the technology workforce in Malaysia according to analysis by the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC). That’s a relatively strong performance compared to many economies, but does show that there’s still a gap to bridge to deliver equal representation that unlocks value for all.
The Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MOSTI) estimates that the share of students in STEM courses needs to reach 60% to ensure adequate access to STEM talent, up from just under 50% in 2020. Championing women in science and technology will be a huge part of that progress, and a goal for which we hope Sunway University Online’s Master of Data Science will provide a valuable contribution.
Greater diversity in data science unlocks widespread opportunities for industry, society, and the economy. It provides the vital talent to power this future-looking industry, and offers a diverse range of perspectives that can help to unlock even greater value in our data-driven world.