Managing Bias and Making Room for Women to Thrive

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 Bieda

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 Pham

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 Parrish

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! 

Outsourcing Data & Analytics: Consider Nearshore

For many businesses, outsourcing data and analytics projects can be a daunting and overwhelming task. However, it can come with significant cost savings, among other benefits. The nearshore model of outsourcing data and analytics offers a unique solution that combines cost savings, access to top talent in STEM fields like data science and analytics, and North American cross-border agreement benefits.

By leveraging available talent pools in Mexico, companies can benefit from proximity to North America. This can provide an excellent advantage for many reasons:

  • Similar time zones for seamless communication and measurably faster action
  • Collaboration between teams on either side of the border
  • Cost savings

The cost-saving benefits achieved using nearshoring services are hard to ignore in today’s competitive marketplace. Outsourcing can save a company 40% or more on information technology needs. There is a reason 70% of American businesses are eyeing nearshore outsourcing

This article will discuss how nearshoring data analytics helps businesses by assessing the CAGE model, USMCA (United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement), while tapping into Mexico’s talented pool of STEM professionals.

The problems with outsourcing data analytics offshore

There are various aspects to consider outside of the availability of talent. First, look at the fragile domestic policies within Eastern European countries where offshoring has been the norm. Political instability is common in countries with a significant hub for remote work, including technology jobs. Offshoring outsourced data analytics has become even more challenging with additional political constraints. 

Next, the distance between the countries can make communication and collaboration difficult. This can significantly slow workflow, making it difficult to troubleshoot any issues that arise, especially when dealing with large or complex projects.

Finally, the time zone difference, while not as prominent a factor as the language barrier, can still create complications. Team meetings, reviews, and discussions may need to take place outside traditional business hours to accommodate both teams. 

Why nearshore outsourcing in Mexico

When working with an outsourcing partner, you want to ensure it is done right, on time, and within budget. To do this, nearshore outsourcing provides several advantages.

When outsourcing, it is important to consider the CAGE (Cultural, Administrative, Geographical, and Economic) model to assess offshore and nearshore opportunities. This can help companies identify a nearshore destination that best suits their data and analytics needs. For example, Mexico is an ideal nearshore country for American companies. This model looks at four things: Culture, Administrative rules, Geography, and Economics. 

  • Culture looks at the language people in the area speak and how they act. 
  • Administrative rules cover laws that may affect how you do business there. 
  • Geography means looking at how near or far away the place is from where you live or work and what potential impact the distance creates. 
  • Economics means considering how much it will cost to outsource your data and analytics project there. 

Protecting intellectual property

It is important to note that the USMCA (United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement), benefits the nearshore model through tight intellectual property protection laws and is inclusive of the digital economy, especially as it relates to the free movement of data across all countries. The USMCA is the renegotiation of NAFTA and regulates trade between the United States, Mexico, and Canada, including updated intellectual property protections that aligns with the United States IP laws. 

Streamlined visa procedures

The relationship between the US and Mexico bolsters the discussion of security and migration, making Mexico more appealing compared to Asia, Eastern Europe (due to the current fragile political environment), and other offshore options because of its preferential access. Work visas can be applied for and granted throughout the year, whereas H1B visas are strictly monitored and processed and only issued in October. The NAFTA Professional (TN) visa is a temporary, three-year work permit for citizens of Canada, Mexico, and the US. It can be renewed indefinitely for qualified workers from each country to reside in the US with their spouses and children. This means team collaboration can be seamless as professionals can be mobile and, if necessary, stay for extended periods based on the project’s needs. 

The bottom line

When it comes to outsourcing, nearshoring data and analytics work in Mexico poses tangible benefits. From near-identical time zones, language skills, ease of work visa and travel, cost savings, and IP protection to US standards to a large pool of skilled professions, nearshore data and analytics solutions can yield positive outcomes. Read more about these solutions here.