The Growth of Female Professionals in Big Data

July 30th, 2014

Despite a shortage of women in technology – fewer than 8 percent of chief information officers in the U.S. are female – the big data career landscape shows a different evolution. More than 25 percent of chief data officers are women. This step toward gender diversity could be due to the fact that data science is rooted not only in technical ability but also in collaboration, communication and negotiation skills – areas where women tend to be strong. As noted by Steven Hilton, chief product officer at Alpine Data Labs, “Data science has created a culture that invites women in.”

Data Science versus IT

The STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields have traditionally been dominated by men – and the numbers haven’t changed significantly in the 21st century. As of 2011, only one in seven engineers were female, and employment growth for women in STEM jobs has been stagnant since 2000. By contrast, meaningful growth has occurred for females in big data – typically in heavily regulated industries like banking, as well as in media, advertising and government.

  • Big data professionals are like jacks – or make that jills – of all trades. Their greatest skill may be the ability to take ideas from one field and apply them to another. They have the acute communication skills to speak effectively to people on both sides of the equation, translating techno-speak into a compelling business strategy that non-technical decision makers understand and embrace.

Big Data Career Opportunities

As big data gains momentum, it’s creating big career opportunities. Companies continue to recruit professionals with a complex set of skills to tap into big data’s potential to help them achieve and maintain a competitive edge.

Skills most often mentioned in connection with Big data jobs include math, statistics, data analysis, business analysis and natural language processing. But tech skills are just the tip of the iceberg.

  • As businesses seek big data talent, they are targeting application developers and software engineers more than IT operations professionals. Most jobs require knowledge of programming and the ability to develop apps, as well as an understanding of how to meet business needs.
  • The most important qualifications are not academic degrees, certifications or job experience. Rather, a curious mind, a persistent character and a strong creative bent are key.
  • Big data demands a scientific temperament. Data science is an experiment-driven process where you try lots of different things and have to be okay with failure in order to ultimately achieve success. Data scientists need to be intellectually flexible enough to change assumptions and approaches to problems. This tends to be a different approach than most IT pros are used to.

Building data science capability is crucial for virtually every enterprise today. A study of 179 companies by MIT and the University of Pennsylvania revealed that data-drive firms performed 5 to 6 times better – and this percentage is as high as 60 percent in the retail industry. There is global demand for 4.4 million big data professionals by next year, with 1.9 million of these in the U.S.

Are you seeking to grow your career in big data? Consider working with a professional career coach from Select Group, Inc., to design and implement your successful strategy. Read our related posts or contact us today to learn more.

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