Data and analytics is a rapidly growing industry that has revolutionized our lives and work. However, despite the increasing demand for tech talent, women remain significantly underrepresented in this industry. Studies show that women represent only a small fraction of the workforce in technology, with many facing obstacles and biases that prevent them from advancing in their careers. Gender bias in technology has been a topic of discussion for years, with organizations recognizing the need to create more inclusive workplaces. In this Leading with Purpose series by Swoon, Lori, Chief Data and Analytics Officer at BMO, and Quyen, Vice President at Swoon Consulting, explore the importance of managing bias and making room for women to thrive. They examine the various forms of bias and provide strategies for individuals and organizations to create a more inclusive environment for women.
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Meet Our Panelists
Lori is currently the Chief Data and Analytics Officer for BMO, the North American retail and business bank. She has been leading data and analytics teams for nearly 25 years across the world and is a huge advocate for women’s empowerment which is why she started, ElleExcel.
ElleExcel Women’s Circle is designed to empower women to excel in all aspects of their lives, offering inspiration, learning, and connection with other like-minded women – across four fundamental drivers: ME (self help and awareness), WE (community and connection), Wellness and Leadership.
Quyen is the Vice President of Swoon Consulting. Much like Lori, she is passionate about women in leadership and creating a space for women to thrive and advance within the workplace. She has done extensive research and has written articles with Forbes Business Council on the subject.
Megan is the Director of Marketing and Sales Operations at Swoon. She would not be where she is today without the strong women in her life, both personally and professionally. She believes it is so important to pass that forward –advocating for young women leaders by helping to amplify their voices and providing support in career development.
Megan: What aspects of managing bias and making room for women to thrive are you most passionate about?
Lori: I have been seeing that bias has evolved, and we all have probably witnessed it. In a way, it is like a cell that mutates. Although it starts as one thing, it adapts and reconstructs itself. But bias is still here and around us at work and in our personal lives. It is also harder to detect, which is why I am so passionate about talking on this subject. It is something we all should educate ourselves on so we can help put an end to it. Most of the time, bias is subversive, leaving women questioning themselves. Was it me? Did that happen? Did they say that? Am I wrong in my interpretation of it? I think bias can be as blunt as more men being promoted or in a particular role than women or as subtle as being spoken over or having our thoughts reframed by someone else. Another example would be how, as women, we often get asked how we are available for this meeting or who is watching the kids, assuming that is your actual job and you are running or working at this company as a side job. So, I care about this topic because I care about equality.
Quyen: Lori, I loved how you mentioned microaggressions. Those little things that are not so overt and obvious can sometimes be the worst because we are not acknowledging them. I think there are two main reasons why this topic is critical, especially for a woman in leadership or one looking to join the data field:
1. In the world of data, women help drive effective solutions because we come with different perspectives and innovative ideas that lead to better decision-making. We are 50% of the population, so we represent a lot of spending power. If you think about the perspective we bring to the table, we need to delve into and take a look at that.
2. Gender diversity in a company can help achieve better financial outcomes. It is something that creates and produces financial outcomes for companies. Looking at this from an economic standpoint and how we promote women within our field is essential. 21% are more likely to have above-average profitability if the company has women in leadership (McKinsey study).
Megan: Studies and books have been written on data bias, specifically, the biased data that excludes women. What are your thoughts on data bias as women in leadership and data?
Lori: While we are 50% of the population, we are less than 1% of the C-suite across all industries, but it is amplified for women in STEM. I believe bias, at least in the workplace, has three entry points:
· Bias during the acquisition phase. For example, men will apply for a job with 50-60% of the required skills, whereas women, by their admission, will have 100% of the skills needed before applying for that job. The bias starts internally within ourselves to say, “am I worthy of being here?” or “am I worthy of this job?”.
· Bias that happens during the interview process. Hiring managers or recruiters are sorting through in a traditional way and judging fit for a job. Commonly, an interview approach tends to have a different complexion. It is more about telling me what you have done and strutting your stuff, which women are often uncomfortable doing.
· Bias that comes into play once you get into the workforce. This bias shows up in different ways, such as micro or macro, but it is also pervasive throughout the other processes.
Organizations need to be very deliberate in being able to recognize those biases and be able to create conditions where the biases will not thrive.
Quyen: Bias is ubiquitous. It is everywhere and inside all of us. It is about having awareness around that and knowing it is also in our data. There was a book written in 2019 by Caroline Criado-Perez called Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men. This book dives into how most of our data is gathered from men. They talk about the day-to-day things like how farm equipment is measured to the body of a man or how snowplowing in Sweden is done around the men’s schedules.
Click here to read our full blog that dives into unconscious biases, creating a space for women to thrive, the importance of a support system, and much more!