The Women Behind The Data

By Ami Gal

2.19.2014 twitter linkedin facebook

Big Data is being mentioned left and right, but what isn’t being mentioned are the women behind the data. As a woman involved with a Big Data startup, (SQream Technologies – A high-tech startup specializing in Big Data and GPUs) I felt a bit offended by the lack of Big Data content focusing on what women are bringing to this booming industry. And with that in mind, I found inspiration for my next blog post…

Women make better data scientists?

Steven Hillion gave an Ignite presentation at Strata 2013 entitled, “Why are women better data scientists”. Hillion stated a variety of interesting statistics in his talk, mentioning that women are leading and succeeding in data science for a number of reasons, even though there is still a preference for hiring men over women within the technical field. So how exactly are these women succeeding in a field overrun by men?

Thoughts from the female pro’s:

Carla Gentry runs Analytical Solution and is a veteran data science as well as an influential woman in the data field. When asked about specializing in data science for an article published by, Gentry mentions:

“Data science ‘is more than just analytics’. As a data scientist, you’ll become a liaison between the IT department and the C-suite. You have to talk both languages and you have to understand the hierarchy of data. You can’t be just an architect or data expert.”

Gentry also shared her thoughts on being a woman in the data field, stating:
“I’ve always been very curious, even as a child. I would take things apart just to see what was inside and what made them work. I finally learned how to put everything back together at age 8, much to the delight of my parents (giggle). My father had a huge impact on my way of thinking – I was raised to believe that if I tried hard enough, I could do anything! I wasn’t made aware of “it’s a man’s world” until my 1st job, which lasted 3 days – my boss said I couldn’t handle something because of my size and I jumped to my feet and said, ‘says who!’ I graduated with multiple degrees and a desire to set the world on fire. I succeeded and moved up the corporate ladder despite the fact that I was female. I gained respect by “walking the walk” as well as “talking the talk” – after having been a part of building a data warehouse for my last company, only to have it taken over by a guy who knew less than my dog about data – I made the decision to leave the corporate world and go at it alone. March 1st is my 3rd anniversary and I am happy to say Analytical-Solution is alive and well! Never doubt yourself and never let anyone tell you, ‘you can’t!’ Girls ROCK!”
Tamara Dull is another exceptional example of a woman conquering the Big Data field. Tamara is the Director of Emerging Technologies for SAS Best Practices, a thought leadership organization at the well-known SAS institute. When asked about getting started in the Big Data sector, Tamara mentioned:
“My big data journey started back in 2007 – yes, before the buzzword even arrived on the scene. By day, I was a software product manager, and by night, I was part of a non-profit team who had this vision of building a collaborative application for volunteers in a Facebook-Meets-MeetUp sort of way. That’s when I began to grapple with the challenge of having data that didn’t make sense to store in a relational database – like social media data – yet needed to be tied back to relevant data in the database.”
Tamara also shared her thoughts on being a woman who works in the high-tech field, stating:

“Today, I do a lot of writing and speaking as the Director of Emerging Technologies on the SAS Best Practices team, a thought leadership organization at SAS Institute. I focus primarily on emerging topics like big data, Hadoop, IT modernization, and more recently, the Internet of Things. Even though I work in a male-dominated industry – even after 25 years – I have experienced much support from my male colleagues through the years. I have never felt slighted because I was a woman – but because I am a woman, I know I have to work harder.

And both Gentry and Dull are working hard and kicking butt, showing the incredible amount of power that women can bring to the Big Data/high-tech field. These women have both created major milestones in the data industry and their positive, never giving-up attitudes allowed them to push open new doors which had typically been reserved strictly for men.

So, what’s attracting women to Big Data?

The buzz being made by Big Data has clearly made way for women wanting to get started in a data-driven field. Opportunities in Big Data are attracting women specializing in IT, data science, data management, software development and anything else data related. This could be because Big Data is a fairly new industry which has currently been met with great success. All the hype surrounding Big Data has made careers within this sector more appealing, especially for women looking to exercise their mathematical and analytical skills.
Software Advice recently published an article entitled, “4 Women Leading the Way in Business Intelligence,” featuring individual interviews with 4 successful women in the BI technical field. This article is a wonderful source of information regarding how and why four motivated women made their way into the high-tech field. Each woman featured explains their accomplishments and contributions within BI, offering advice to other women on how they were able to advance in a male dominated industry.
It’s also interesting to note that the creation of the “Chief Data Officer” position is gaining popularity and many companies are hiring individuals experienced in data management and analysis. Establishing this role has led to an increase in women in the IT sector – more than 25% of the CDOs surveyed by Gartner are women, a number which is double the amount of women who are currently CIOs.
And now many universities and colleges are offering Big Data courses and special degrees which will enable more women to get involved with Big Data careers.For example, MIT recently offered the Palantir Scholarship for Women in Technology with the goal to help women obtain degrees in technology and learn from other influential women in the field. MIT was also one of the first universities to offer an online 4 week Big Data course, a great opportunity for busy women who wish to learn more about Big Data in a short period of time.

Final Thoughts

Ami Gal, the CEO of SQream Technologies, stresses the importance of having more women involved in the company. Gal is constantly seeking out women developers and other leading experts to add to the company dynamic, stating, “Having more women at SQream will bring diversity and different opinions. We need to see more women in this sector.” Currently, there are four women on the SQream team, a number which is expected to increase as the company develops.
Overall, I think that more awareness must be made regarding the women involved with Big Data. Not only will this lead to recognition for these women, it will also add more diversity to the Big Data/data industry, encouraging women everywhere to get started in one of the most innovative fields in the world.