Episode Twelve: Girls in Data

Data Is In Every Business

Rachel Keane from Women in Data has launched a new initiative that encourages young women to explore career opportunities in data & analytics. In this episode, Rachel explains how 'Girls in Data' aims to help students understand how data impacts every business, and offers a wealth of career choices.

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The Power of Data Podcast

Episode 12: Girls in Data

Guest: Rachel Keane, Women in Data and Girls in Data participants
Interviewer: Louise Cavanagh, Communications Director - Dun & Bradstreet

Louise 00:00
Welcome to a special edition of the power of data podcast. We're delighted to be joined by Rachel Keane and has masterminded the launch of a brilliant new initiative called Girls in Data. Rachel, thank you for joining us today.

Rachel 00:11
Thank you for inviting me Louise.

Louise 00:12
And I'm really excited about being part of the Women in Data conference today as well. It's been a fantastic day, you are a co-founder of Women in Data and I know you're a massively passionate advocate and champion of supporting women in our industry. Can you tell us more about the girls and data initiative and how it all came about?

Rachel 00:26
So Girls in Data came about pretty much the same as Women in Data, by accident as everything always great does. One of the things that we were horrified about, and the reason we started Women in Data is because there was a lack of women entering the industry, and a lack of women in senior leadership positions. We know that actually there is a healthy increase of young girls studying STEM subjects, but yet the men are still entering four times more than every naught point six eight women. So there's a problem. Okay, so one of the things that we think is the problem is the fact that perhaps we're not packaging up data or technology or STEM in the right way, if we were to perhaps eradicate the word STEM, and talk about actually how we can bring unique skills such as communication, being inquisitive, being curious, all key skills of data, and we lay that with a little bit of math, and we lay that was a little bit of science, and we stopped scaring children who perhaps don’t want to do trigonometry for the rest of their life and absolutely hate GCSE maths, but actually have all of those other unique skills. We’re packaging up data and technology and roles that are available now. So that came across in lots of different ways. Number one, obviously through Women in Data, I have a 15-year-old daughter who ironically hates maths. Of course she does. But one of the conversations that I had with one of her teachers before she took her options was that she was actually very good at python programming, but she thought it was boring and she thought it was, you know, full of boys and very nerdy. But yet if she had the opportunity, like some of the girls in data that we've had today to understand a little bit about how machine learning works with companies such as L'Oreal, or maybe Netflix or Facebook, or a brand that she resonates with, I question would she or could she, you know, make a more informed decision about data & analytics as a career. Who knows. But I think, you know, sometimes we need to stop doing the same thing by saying girls need to study more maths, girls need to study more science, we need to actually take to them a destination, so that you can see potentially something that's interesting to them, and then they can form their own journey of how they get there.

Louise 02:26
Yeah, I know that you've been working on a special film. Can you tell us a bit more about that?

Rachel 02:31
Super exciting, okay. But again, you know, packaged up in the pure women the pure Women in Data way really, luck and generosity. We were very fortunate to work with Rankin, the photographer who dedicated a whole team of people to help us create a two minute short film that showcases a girl of 15, an authentic girl actually, who is a high achiever in maths and science, and she's actually making a decision before the end of the year about what A levels she wants to take but has no idea what career opportunities could be available from maths and science. So, bring in the 20 and data and technology awardees from the last two years. We pick six of those women, who we know are real advocates for inspiring young girls and young women to move into data and tech. And they are women from organizations such as the BBC, Facebook ,Transport for London, Sainsbury's, Tech Nation, and also Royal Mail. So these women basically meet all our ‘data girl’ Armani on her journey to visit her grandmother. And as they bump into her, they give us some advice as to how math and science is used every day in those very, very varied organizations and careers of data of which there are many. We're just very excited because, you know, not only did we choose those organizations because they resonate with children and they can see that actually touch points of their life are affected by data, more so we know when you know, your 12 year old to your 15 year to 18 year old when they're making any sort of decision normally, you know, they are running in past their family and their friends. Okay, so, you know, most of our mums and dads have posted a letter, normally they go food shopping, it doesn't matter if it's not at Sainsbury's. And they're aware of social media even if they're not using that on a kind of daily basis as well. So, we really need to start educating people outside of data, the data industry, you can see today has supported us so well, you know, we've got a great network here. But we need to start breaking the boundaries with influencers. You know, our local mums, our aunties our Nans, friends, friends of friends, sisters, or nieces. We need to start talking about this as a career for women and stop being so scared of the word data or tech, and really think about it as an opportunity to package up some skills and layer it with perhaps some skills that you're not so good at and carve out your own career. Data is in every business so you know, you can really do whatever you want.

Louise 04:42
Yeah, we talked today with some of the other interviewees about how data just runs through, even if we don't know it, through our daily life. In business, every business has some kind of data on something be it data on their employees at the very basic level to their customers and their suppliers. It's all about data, and it’s not going to go away We're just going to get more and more of it.

Rachel 05:01
Absolutely. And the thing is, as well, most of the time data is used for good, it's used to improve, you know, things that we're looking for. So let's say, you know, who doesn't love to watch Netflix, you know, in abundance on a Sunday in your pajamas, right? You know, we really love a series. Well there's people behind them and the data behind that, that are then thinking about what we want to watch going forward based on the data they collected, and when we've watched it, and when are we going to watch it? And who do we want in it? Same thing, as, you know, anything to do with, you know, food, or clothing or all of those things, those personal things that you like. You know, it's really exciting. I mean, you can hear I love it.

Louise 05:34
yeah, everyone's been really passionate about today. And one of the last questions from me and then we'll ask the girls a couple of things about today. In terms of our listeners of the podcast, who may be business leaders in data or otherwise, what do you think they can do as corporate businesses around using the Girls in Data video? How can they get involved in that and, and how can they use it as a sort of a stimulus to change and to think about things in a different way?

Rachel 05:59
Well, you know, corporate organizations have mothers and fathers with teenagers irrespective of male or female. I think it certainly is a conversation that they need to be having outside of work. Number two, I think it's a conversation that they should be having internally about thinking of work experience placements. Now we know that most work experience placements and senior schools are, you know, pretty supervised as our sixth form ones as I even University ones. But an interesting conversation today and I digress slightly with a CDO here for Zurich Insurance, okay, doesn't come from a technical background in maths and science. But one of the key skills our mum made her do was touch typing, basically. She didn't want to be a touch typist ever and was like I don’t know why you're making me do this. But every single role she did in the summer holidays, from school all the way up through university, she did jobs in an office, anything from a charity to a tech organization and one day bang, I want to go and work here, this is where I want to be. By using the skills that she intended to never use. Yeah, so my point is, if we could get more young people into organizations doing summer placements or week placements or shadow days, or, you know, going into these environments to absorb them to see what they're like, I think then they would be able to decipher what fits. They don't need to know everything. I mean that that's impossible. I'm 43. And I still haven't got any idea what I want to do when I grow up. Bu today's not a bad start. I think, you know, allow people to enjoy key skills and careers, because actually, you know, that's what it's about. That's what we should be encouraging. You should be doing a career that you love, and you should be focusing on skills that are great and that you're going to enjoy doing for the rest of your life.

Louise 07:36
Girls if don't mind just answering a few questions. I know you've had a great agenda of stuff that you've done today and hopefully a day off school to take part in it. I just wondered if first of all were you surprised by how many people were here today and how many women there are that work in data jobs? Did you even know that they existed?

Girl 1 07:53
Well, when we walked in, we weren't really expecting to see a whole hall full of women who work in so many different areas of data. And usually in our everyday life, we're not exposed to such programs as this women and data program. So if I was to have the opportunity to come here and meet all the women, and see how many different areas of work there are that we could go into, it was very inspiring, and very eye opening for us, because we don't usually have school trips like this. So for us to come here, it was a really good opportunity,

Louise 08:25
Even just for me, I mean, coming here and there being pretty much a sea full of women. It's amazing. It was a real buzz out there

Rachel 08:31
a lot of energy, isn't there?

Louise 08:32
Yeah. And for me thinking about when I was your age, I don't think I ever saw that many women, especially working women in that kind of environment. So hopefully, you know, you should take it that you can do whatever you want to do and there's nothing that is restricted to you guys. The other question, what are your favorite part of today? Is there something that stood out to you so far?

Girl 1 08:50
Well, my favorite part of today was a woman came to talk to us about how to write a CV because obviously most stuff that we do, we don't really find use of it, but the CV writing in a few years, maybe like just two years, is going to help us to get somewhere further in life and then maybe a job in Women in Data.

Girl 2 09:10
We also had a stress relief and anxiety management session. And since we're in year 10, we're doing GCSE soon. And I'm sure most of us are very worried about that. So that session that we did applies to our everyday life as students. And it helps us to label stress during exams. And as we want to perform to the best of our ability, it helps us to do that and manage your anxiety. So we don't walk to the exam, you know, stressing over anything. And we remember everything that we want for the exam, we perform how we want to. And that's what most of us want to do when we walk to exams, we want to perform to the best of our ability so we can go as far as we want to.

Louise 09:49
I wish I could speak as well as you could! You've got a good future ahead of you. So when I was growing up, and I was your age, we didn't have mobile phones or all the social media. And you’ve probably heard grownups talk about this all the time, about ‘back in the day’. But I mean, do you think about data in your daily life? Is it something that you think about the information that's shared out there? Or is it something that's not on your radar?

Girl 1 10:10
Well, before I came today I thought data was numbers. Like, I didn't know that there's so much more to it, like facial recognition, weather prediction, and I didn't realize there's many different jobs that you can do in it. So today's really given me a better understanding and maybe look into working here one day,

Rachel 10:29
my work here was done.

Louise 10:30
I know, I think they're brilliant, they're women in data of the future, we’re sorted!

Rachel 10:34
It's such an awesome day. That has just made my day better. Absolutely. Thank you guys for being a part of it. And Louise, thank you for taking the time out to speak to us,

Louise 10:44
It’s quite alright. It's a great initiative. We're happy to support it. It's brilliant. share the news. Thank you, everybody.