October 6, 2020

An Interview with Rachel Keane, Co-Founder of Women in Data

Luke Farrugia
Luke Farrugia Head of Marketing

Business challenge:

Equality and Diversity
Women in data

“We must show women that like-minded individuals exist in the industry”

While it is a known fact that women are on par with men with it comes to skill-sets, drive and creativity, they are still vastly underrepresented in the data industry, from entry-level to boardroom positions.

With this in mind, we spoke to Rachel Keane, recruitment expert and co-founder of Women in Data – a partner for our upcoming hackathon – to gain vital insight into the industry and the various initiatives available to support women looking to get into technology, as well as those already working in the industry.

Rachel herself has been working as a veteran recruiter in the data analytics space for over 12 years. As part of the many successes throughout her career, Rachel joined forces with Roisin McCarthy six years ago to launch Women in Data – an initiative to connect, equip and inspire women working in the data industry. What was meant to be a one-off event turned into the largest initiative of its kind and Women In Data is now an impressive network made up of over 25,000 women who support one another.

Women in Data also hosts a role-model series called the Twenty in Data & Technology which recognises successful women at every level of the career-spectrum. Ultimately, Rachel’s pivotal message for all in the industry is that we must show women that like-minded individuals are out there. We must eradicate their fears. We must bridge the gender gap.

With the deadline for the registration of our first Women in Data hackathon having just passed, attracting over 300 applications, we were keen for Rachel to share her thoughts on our latest initiative.

What do you hope that women attending TrueCue’s hackathon will take away from the experience?

“Purpose. I hope that they take away a sense of determination and belief that their skillsets are enough. One of the biggest barriers for women when entering the data industry – or any industry for that matter – is a lack of confidence. Working in recruitment, we tend to see that while men go for roles regardless of whether they match the whole job specification, women hold-back and worry that their skillsets are inadequate, often preferring the referred and “warm approach”.

“By putting themselves in the ring and realising that every skill they possess is of benefit to this event, I hope TrueCue’s hackathon will eradicate this concern among women and encourage them to push their boundaries. The bottom line here is that lifting up the next-generation of female employees is the key to bridging the gender gap. Women must therefore be vocal and proud of what they can bring to the table if they are to filter this through to younger generations.”

What sort of background/ experience do you need to have to get into data analytics?

“The technology industry is increasingly diverse in terms of academic and professional backgrounds of employees. While 10 years ago it was imperative that candidates had a STEM background, companies now look for individuals with a variety of soft and technical skills. For example, graduates who study both Maths and Politics or history. Being able to present and communicate data to non-technical people is equally as important as writing code. We need creativity as well as hard facts in order to succeed.”

What are the traits/characteristics needed to work in data analytics? 

“The traits and characteristics needed to work in data analytics are also different to what may be expected of the industry. In fact, as the technology space continues to evolve, increasing numbers of roles are becoming available for every persona type. For those who like to build, we have engineering roles. For those who enjoy compliance, we have roles in data governance and security. Basically, there is something for everyone, meaning women should not attempt to fit themselves into a particular framework. Instead, they must use their personality traits to carve out their own career path and play to their strengths. Celebrate your individual skills!”

What are the common misconceptions women have about the technology industry?

There are many misconceptions surrounding the technology industry that need to be resolved. The first is that you have to be an expert in programming to stand a chance against other candidates. While numbers and charts are important, working in data analytics also involves communicating ideas to clients and finding new ways to look at the world. This relationship between technology and communication is something that should be more widely discussed and encouraged going forward, thus making data a considered career choice for the next generation.

There are also misconceptions that the data industry is an industry for men. While it is true that the space is heavily male-dominated, we are regularly placing women in a variety of data-led roles and making strides to help balance this gap. More companies need to place an emphasis of hiring and retaining more women as gender-diverse teams are on average more creative, innovative and profitable.”

How can young females go about entering the data analytics industry?

“The harsh reality is that there is unfortunately an immense lack of advice and resources for females looking to get into the data industry. Young women will often have to go further than school or college to learn more about this space. While most educational bodies do offer various initiatives to support student’s learning in the technology space, they cannot be expected to be fully proficient with every sector.

“For those who are interested in the industry but are unsure on how to facilitate this, there are a lot of wonderful initiatives already out there. From STEMgirls Club to Girls Who Code to Women in Data, opportunities are available for women looking to get their foot in the door.

“Another tip for young females is to think about their passions and what really makes them tick. With data analytics becoming increasingly adopted across organisations of all types, looking into data roles in sectors of interest can be a way of understanding the vast array of options a career in data analytics can offer. For example, data and health. The NHS offer a variety of data-led roles and looking over the job specifications will help guide women in understanding what it is they want to get out of their career.

Why is data analytics an industry of growing importance in the current climate?

“Now more than ever before people are recognising the value of data and are beginning to see past the misconception that it is about numbers but instead a pivotal tool in everything we do. From informing global decision-making to enabling businesses to plan ahead for an uncertain future, the unrivalled power of data has been critical to our survival over the past few months and will continue to be so as COVID-19 continues to spread. It is therefore imperative that we take immediate action to encourage young women to enter this industry, dispel the myths and promote-role models.”

To learn more about our upcoming Women in Data hackathon or if you have any questions around anything data-related, please feel free to contact us.

Business challenge:

Equality and Diversity
Women in data
Luke Farrugia
Written by Luke Farrugia Head of Marketing

Luke is the Head of all things marketing at TrueCue. With an eclectic track record in planning and implementing comprehensive B2B and B2C growth marketing strategy, across a multitude of industries, including tech, music, travel and education, Luke loves supporting the analytics community with good information, good data and the capacity to derive good decisions, through the lens of TrueCue.

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