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Finding Ada: Identifying, Engaging, and Empowering Women in Statistics and Data Science

1 October 2022 One Comment

The Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) Outreach Group Corner is a regular component of Amstat News in which statisticians write about and educate our community about JEDI-related matters. If you have an idea or article for the column, email the JEDI Corner manager.

Kelly H. Zou is head of global medical analytics and real-world evidence at Viatris. She is a fellow of the American Statistical Association and an Accredited Professional Statistician who has held multiple officer and volunteer roles within the ASA. Currently, she is vice chair of the Methods and Data Council at AcademyHealth, with the ASA as its organizational affiliate.

Ada Lovelace Day falls on October 12 every year. According to the website Finding Ada, it “is an international celebration of the achievements of women in science, technology, engineering, and maths (STEM).” In terms of its purpose and outreach on and beyond Ada Lovelace Day, “it aims to increase the profile of women in STEM and, in doing so, create new role models who will encourage more girls into STEM careers and support women already working in STEM.”

One may wonder who Ada Lovelace (1815–1852) was. According to the Computer History Museum, she translated, remarked upon, and published notes that described a “stepwise sequence of operations for solving certain mathematical problems.” Thus, Ada was fondly called “the first programmer,” or rather one of the first technological innovators as a female pioneer in computation and technology.

In an article about a leadership panel in which I participated, the panelists were asked why it is important to embrace diversity, equity, and inclusion, including women. Following is a summary of their answers:

People’s backgrounds, experiences, knowledge, skillsets, mindsets, and views are diverse. When we embrace these, we can essentially broaden ourselves in all of these aspects. Without diversity, equity, and inclusion, we won’t know what we don’t know. To embrace diversity, equity, and inclusion, we should engage all members of our community in a conversation about our shared vision of excellence and examine how much of this vision has not been realized in some underrepresented parts of our community. Through such a conversation, we can recognize the need for more proactive efforts in the direction of diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Below are three suggested ways we can “find Ada” (i.e., identify and nurture female and/or other talented statisticians and data scientists from minority backgrounds) among us:

  1. Member introducing a diverse member. We all know a bright and talented young person who would love to know more about quantitative disciplines. Why not suggest a name and connect with that individual as an introductory “buddy”? The senior member can function as a mentor for at least six months to a year, meeting virtually for at least an hour once a month.
  2. Technical and soft-skill roadshows. Students and graduate students may be intimidated by either one-on-one conversations or panel interviews. Thus, having “mock” roadshows with senior and junior members across several universities and departments with diverse student bodies may help the latter develop ways to handle potentially stressful social interactions, such as professional negotiations, away from data analysis and software coding.
  3. Diverse role models to rid imposter syndrome. Imposter syndrome is perceived fraudulence involving feelings of self-doubt and personal incompetence that persist despite your education, experience, and accomplishments. On the international stage, well-qualified diverse role models need to be celebrated so a future generation will believe they too can lead organizations and make critical contributions to their chosen fields.

The above suggestions are meant to start a conversation about how we can take action in supporting young talent; additional ideas are certainly welcome. Let’s “find Ada!”

Editor’s Note: Zou is an employee of Viatris. The views expressed here are her own.

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One Comment »

  • Kelly (Author) said:

    Hope that we will all support and empower our next generation of talented women who will contribute greatly to our societies though Statistics and Data Science! Happy ALD!