By Shannon Katschilo, Country Manager, Canada at Snowflake
As the digital and data economy continues to boom globally, businesses in the B2B space will increasingly start to see the immense value data brings to decision-making — from driving business strategies and innovation, to hiring and workplace practices. These data derived decisions will have a far-reaching impact on the experiences of organisations, employees, customers, entire industries, and citizens. However, research shows that women make up as few as 15 percent of the workforce in data science, and that only 20-25 percent of technology leaders are women.
Why does this matter? Because as we continue to build more robust data-driven systems and as the demand for talent in data grows — data scientists are listed among the top 10 fastest growing occupations — it’s vital that women be a part of the developing data story. Achieving diverse and gender-balanced perspectives directly correlates to building robust systems, ultimately contributing to diverse problem-solving and overall business growth.
Achieving Balance: Gender-Diverse Perspectives
Half the population is comprised of women with unique needs and experiences that need to be considered when creating data-driven systems. The Center for Global Development stated in a 2021 blog post that the underrepresentation of women in data science increases the risk that data-driven policies will be designed and implemented using biased data. For example, in critical industries like healthcare, algorithms are starting to be used in everything from guiding patient care and disease detection, to administrative tasks. Involving women at all levels of the data process makes it more likely that gender bias will be identified and addressed, resulting in more accurate and inclusive data.
Bringing Innovation and Problem-Solving to the Data Story:
Having more women in data and technology roles drives innovation and creative solutions to complex problems. Studies report that companies with diverse employees have “up to 20% higher rate of innovation and 19% higher innovation revenues.” When diverse perspectives are lacking, teams can miss important insights that could lead to breakthroughs, or unique approaches to tackling business challenges and high-stakes decisions. It’s critical to bring together diverse teams to ensure balanced decision making that improves the lives and business of end users — and not further perpetuate biases.
Increasing the Bottom Line:
Not only do gender diverse teams foster innovation, but they are also good for business. According to a 2020 McKinsey report, “Companies in the top quartile for gender diversity on their executive teams were 25 percent more likely to experience above-average profitability than companies in the fourth quartile”.
This underscores the need for organizations to create opportunities for women in data, including building awareness around the wide-ranging career paths and skill sets, and the impact of their work. Initiatives like DE&I programs, unconscious bias training, and flexible working environments are just some examples of the many ways organisations can act now. We must take a step back and look at our HR policies to ensure we have inclusive hiring practices, create work cultures that value and encourage diversity, and provide networking and mentorship opportunities as a way to start levelling the playing field.
However, most importantly we must understand that true progress and change does not happen overnight. It’s imperative that everyone in the organisation, not just women, makes a concerted effort to advocate for diversity throughout the technology landscape to build more equitable working environments, business ecosystems, and truly change the way our society operates.
Shannon Katschilo is the Country Manager of Canada at Snowflake. Katschilo brings over 15 years of client connection-building and employee stewardship to her role, scaling Snowflake’s presence in the market and taking a data-first approach to improving experiences at all levels of operation. She is passionate about female mentorship and sponsorship, and prioritises bringing an equitable lens to data-driven decisions by creating opportunities for women and underrepresented groups to take on leadership positions within the field.