As businesses look to achieve greater output efficiency following years of stagnation, they often need not look further than their people. Building teams that represent a diverse range of perspectives can not only result in more creative thinking but can accelerate team productivity and strengthen business outcomes. In 2023, it’s time to think smarter, not harder, and strengthen teams with people that are going to give you the most diverse brains in the mix.
Breaking the bias
Growing up, my dad was a civil engineer, my mum was a stay-at-home mum, and my sister and I grew up with a resounding understanding of gender roles in their traditional sense. While initially, my twin sister desired a path similar to my mum, in the pursuit of my own identity, I chose to follow my dad into the world of STEM. Whilst dad often returned home covered in dirt and coal from his line of work, I pursued STEM from a “cleaner” clinical perspective, opting to enter the wonderful world of analytics.
Science and mathematics have always been interests of mine; however, it was my personal health journey that piqued my interest in the health sector and later kickstarted my career in healthcare analytics. In saying this, without the reassurance and support from my family to engage with what was considered “boys subjects”, the likelihood of pursuing STEM would be a pipe dream. For me, this reaffirms the need to educate and empower young girls that STEM subjects are for everyone – the scientist, the mathematician, the curious explorer, or the creative thinker.
Altruism is often intrinsic for women
I have always been drawn to the altruistic side of analytics, with career highlights including helping medical professionals triage at-risk sepsis patients, assisting child safety workers in identifying early warning signs of child abuse and neglect in case notes and using a deep learning algorithm to screen for breast cancer in tissue sample images.
Another career highlight was being part of a global team SAS – my current workplace –formed in response to the pandemic, which worked with Johns Hopkins University. As part of this team, which included 20 SAS employees with a background in epidemiology, medicine, and infectious disease research, we developed models in trial environments, including developing a system that identifies the impact of case numbers or booster doses. I have also been fortunate to engage in several local initiatives, including work with Government agencies and Black Dog Institute, a SAS Data for Good partner, to assess the impact of COVID-19 on the mental health of frontline workers.
But what do the numbers say?
According to the Australian Government’s STEM Equity Monitor from the Department of Industry, Science and Resources late last year, women make up just 37% of enrolments in university STEM courses and 16% of enrolments in vocational STEM courses. While disappointed by the results, it is not surprising. In order to shift the needle, we must make systemic change, starting from a young age, nurturing girls’ natural curiosity and encouraging participation in STEM subjects, just as I was fortunate to experience with my parents at a young age.
An infamous report conducted in 2018 found that globally, there are more CEOs named Andrew than there are female CEOs. Without women in leadership positions or naming the next generation of women Andrew, we are inherently restricted in our decision-making. If more businesses acted in acknowledging that diverse teams foster creative solutions and drive greater potential for innovation, we might begin to have less of these conversations.
The path to #EmbraceEquity
The way forward is multifaceted. Effecting systemic change from a young age – in early learning settings and primary schools, through to high school and tertiary education by offering hands-on experience with STEM activities and exposing young adults to inspiring stories of women in STEM and the various career paths.
The next step is encouraging our corporates and STEM industry leaders across the country to prioritise initiatives that focus on empowering the next generation of female tech experts and building the confidence and skills of women seeking out leadership roles. This can be in the form of dedicated female empowerment groups – such as SAS’ Women’s Initiative Network (WIN) and Young Women Leaders in AI groups – or be as simple as fostering a female mentoring program.
As a dedicated mentor, feminist, woman in STEM and lover of analytics, I am dedicated to looking at ways to #EmbraceEquity in my every day and live and breathe this year’s UN theme – DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality.
How will you #EmbraceEquity this International Women’s Day?