Aug 01, 2017 Listen to the Women (and the Data)

Data Conference / All Posts

PARTNERS Session: Women in Data Science

Companies are striving for diversity because teams with a wide range of perspectives have more experiences and insights to draw from, making them more flexible and innovative in their problem solving. It’s even been shown that teams with more women perform better. However, achieving that team composition has been slower in some historically male-dominated segments than others.

“Listen to what we have to say and encourage us!”
– Liza Duffy, Data Scientist, Teradata

That’s why Teradata PARTNERS is tackling the issue head-on. For 2017 in Anaheim, a panel of women data scientists will address the issues and answer questions that are facing female data scientists, their managers, and anyone working in or that wants to join the data scientist community.

The Female Experience—Paving the Way

For Liza Duffy, Data Scientist with Teradata, the experience of moving into Data Science provided a stark contrast from the Business Intelligence (BI) area she came from. “BI has quite a diverse population in terms of gender. But when I started to work for the Aster team, there were around 25 people. I was the first female.”

The move could have been tough. At the time, although Liza had a long career in data, including work at Harvard, she hadn’t really worked in data science. “They brought me in anyway. I was fortunate to have two female mentors who were in data science and took my career in that direction. I just passed five years with Teradata.”

If change has been slow in coming, it is happening. “The early group that I worked with felt a little older. I believe there were fewer women in math and science then, especially in the statistical and computer science areas. What I’m seeing now are women coming in with degrees in computer science and data science. Now there are universities actually offering programs in data science, and the population is really changing.” That benefits everyone.

Keys to Making It Work

If Liza has one piece of advice for aspiring female data scientists, it’s this: find a good community. “The demographics are changing, but I think finding good mentors is key. I’ve had great female mentors all along, in college, and postcollege.” She also believes that when you do become established in your career, it is important to give back. “I really think that women data scientists, programmers and engineers, all need to reach out more to women, guide them and provide some community. If there is no support, people will just drop it and find other paths.”

The Challenge of Being Heard

If there is one thing that Liza would want everyone, and men specifically, to recognize and be more aware of about women in data science is to “Listen to what we have to say and encourage us!”
Panel of Speakers

“If everyone there is a man, it can be really hard for a young woman to step in as the only female voice. You have to give your opinion.” Unfortunately, the woman’s view isn’t always heard and received, as it should be. What happens occasionally is what Liza says is sometimes referred to as mansplaining. “You will make a statement about the project, about the data, about the algorithm you’re using, and someone will basically restate exactly what you’ve already said.” That can be understandably frustrating and doesn’t lead to the open sharing of ideas that enables teams to find the best possible solution.

Life in “The Sexiest Job”

When the Harvard Business Review famously called data science the Sexiest Job of the 21st Century it drew huge amounts of attention. While the position has its challenges, the rewards still far outweigh the negatives. “It’s been an interesting move to data science. I’ve met a lot of good people, and it’s a very interesting field. “You’re going to work with a lot of different personalities, people with varying experience.” For example, “Working with a bunch of sales guys can be very different than working with a bunch of data scientists. You just have to keep an open mind and kind of roll with the punches.” The opportunities continue to expand in the data science field and aren’t projected to slow down anytime soon. “I’m happy I made that move,” she says.

Meeting the Data Science Club

PARTNERS is a great place to make connections, foster relationships and potentially find mentors and mentees. “I’m really looking forward to seeing if we have data scientists in there from a variety of countries, and have different sets of interests and concerns to express. I love being in the community and meeting people and talking to them about these things, and women in data science. In our panel we have a real variety. There are a couple of younger women who have very different experiences coming, and we have Yasmeen Ahmad from the UK (where she was Data Scientist of the Year), who is experienced on the leadership side. Getting everyone in the same place and being able to discuss these ideas is very nice. I think it’s a great opportunity.” It certainly is—for everyone.

Register to attend PARTNERS and attend the Women in Data Science session.

Why Attend

Women in Data Science – Session 0555

Join Teradata Data Scientists on a panel discussion of Women in Data Science. The topics will include how these women got started and followed a path to a career in Data Science, the joys and challenges of being a female Data Scientist in the field, and ideas for mentoring and encouraging girls into Data Science careers. This is a topic meant for everyone who works with or supports women in Data Science!


Liza Duffy
Data Scientist, Teradata

Michelle Tanco
Data Scientist, Teradata

Amy Heinrich
Data Scientist, Teradata

Yasmeen Ahmad
Director of Think Big Analytics (Central Europe, UK&I and Russia), Teradata

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