As seen on ET Edge Insights
The representation of women in leadership roles within the field of Data & AI is alarmingly low. According to a recent report by the World Economic Forum, only 26% of women are represented across all levels in technology, and a mere 15% hold top leadership positions. Furthermore, research indicates that diversity of perspectives is critical for effective AI. According to a recent Deloitte survey, 71% believe that adding women to Data & AI teams brings unique perspectives necessary for building effective AI systems. 63% agreed that AI models will continue to produce biased results until the field becomes more gender diverse. The study emphasizes that diverse teams excel in challenging assumptions and problem-solving in AI.
The glaring gender gap and the need for women in data & AI suggest a pressing problem that requires immediate attention. In this article, I share five tips based on my own experience to help women data & AI professionals reach leadership positions.
Be Open and Flexible:
Many college grads and young professionals are attracted to the idea of becoming data scientists, often equating it to coding models and considering them cool. However, in the age of Auto ML, individuals no longer add value solely through model building. Instead, you must possess a comprehensive understanding of the business problem, connect it with data, handle complex data preparation tasks, identify relevant models, derive insights, and effectively communicate with business teams to inspire trust and adoption. Developing well-rounded expertise will make you valuable in leadership roles. Additionally, consider exploring different roles within the field to gain diverse experiences, such as business analysis, project management, solutions, and advisory.
Focus on Your Soft Skills:
In addition to technical proficiency, soft skills play a significant role in leadership. It is said that, when a message is presented in the form of a story, people are 20 times more likely to retain and take action upon it. So, develop your storytelling abilities to effectively convey your message and make a lasting impact. Problem-solving is another critical aspect of data analysis – focusing on asking the right questions that address the root of the problem. Utilize frameworks like the “5 Whys” to develop your problem-solving skills. Remember, the ability to connect data insights to business and industry problems is essential.
Make Sure You Are Heard:
Women often face credibility challenges in the workplace. Use every opportunity to showcase your capabilities, generate powerful ideas, and prove their effectiveness. Advocate for yourself, be confident in your abilities, and don’t shy away from negotiating salary raises and promotions. Remember that your worth is not determined solely by others but by your own belief in yourself. Claim your seat at the table and assert your value.
Build Your Personal Brand:
Creating a strong personal brand sets you apart from the competition and helps build trust with prospective clients and employers. Start by developing your presence on professional networking platforms like LinkedIn. Consistently craft and curate your digital presence, showcasing your expertise and sharing valuable insights. Be authentic, transparent, and honest in your interactions. Cultivating your personal brand requires consistent effort and will pay off in the long run.
Seek Help and Mentorship:
Recognize that as a woman, you may have multiple responsibilities in life. Instead of trying to do everything on your own, seek and accept support. Begin by involving your family and ensuring they understand the importance of your career. Prioritize what matters most to you and delegate or seek assistance for other tasks. Look for mentors both within your organization and in external women-leadership communities. Role models within your family and professional circles can also provide inspiration and guidance. Remember that mentorship can come in various forms, and actively seek individuals with whom you can relate.
Closing the gender gap and increasing women’s representation in leadership roles in Data & AI requires concerted efforts not just from organizations but also from individuals. By being open and flexible, focusing on soft skills, asserting your value, building your personal brand, and seeking help and mentorship, you can empower yourself to break barriers and thrive in leadership positions.
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