Beyond the fairway: Creating pathways for women in data | NTT DATA

Wed, 18 October 2023

Beyond the fairway: Creating pathways for women in data

This summer, NTT DATA sponsored the AIG Women’s Open, the most international major in women's golf. As a proud sponsor for the women’s game, it’s a great opportunity for us to champion inclusivity, and amplify progress for women in both business and sport.

Our support of the event is incredibly important to us. Not only does the Championship act as a source of inspiration from the passion and dedication demonstrated by the female golfers, but it also provides an opportunity for us to bring colleagues, partners and clients from all over world together to connect.

While onsite at this year’s event, we brought together a group of senior women in data from a variety of industries alongside our friends at Women in Data – an organisation that aims to empower women and support them through the various stages of their careers in data, whom we partner with. As co-chairs of the NTT DATA Women’s Business Network, we held a roundtable with these influential leaders from the fields of insurance, telco and retail to discuss the challenges faced by women at the top of their game and what more needs to be done to address these challenges.

Throughout the conversation that took place, we heard differing experiences, perspectives, and strategies for creating an inclusive workplace that ensure women – and indeed all individuals from less represented backgrounds - to excel in data-driven careers. Here are just some of the key messages to come out of that roundtable discussion:


Diversity of thought for business success

Before launching into just some of the solutions for moving the needle on encouraging more women in data roles, it’s important to recognise where we are today.

Data science and analytics have rapidly become integral to business success and decision-making processes across industries. However, there remains a significant gender disparity in this field, despite the common knowledge that diversity of thought is key to business success. Women in Data note that male Analysts and Data Scientists currently outnumber their female colleagues four to one.

Achieving business data success in today's complex and rapidly evolving world requires data insights, but this is more than just technical expertise and analytical skills. It demands a diverse range of perspectives and experiences that can challenge assumptions, uncover hidden insights, and drive innovation.

Diversity of thought brings together individuals with unique backgrounds, knowledge, and approaches to problem-solving, enabling teams to tackle complex data challenges from multiple angles. By embracing diversity, organisations can tap into a wealth of ideas, creativity, and critical thinking that leads to more robust data analysis, better decision-making, and ultimately, enhanced business outcomes. In an era where data is king, fostering an inclusive environment that values and embraces diverse perspectives is not just the right thing to do, but a strategic imperative for business success.

By addressing this issue head-on, we aim to unlock untapped potential, foster diversity, and drive innovation. So, how do we solve this challenge?


Encouraging girls at grassroots level

Encouraging girls at the grassroots level is a crucial step towards achieving gender parity in data roles. By nurturing their interest and aptitude for data from an early age, we can begin to break down societal barriers and stereotypes that limit girls' participation in this field.

During the discussion, many around the table told anecdotal stories of their children and the stereotypes that set in at an incredibly young age. One individual noted how their daughter had commented on the fact that people coming into primary schools discussing their line of work almost always fit gender stereotypes: nurses would always be women, engineers would be men for example. We need to be doing more to break these stereotypes.

Providing access to educational resources, mentorship programmes, and hands-on experiences in data analysis can empower young girls to explore their potential and develop the necessary skills. When girls are exposed to the possibilities of data roles at a young age, they are more likely to pursue these careers with confidence and determination, defying the gender norms that have historically limited their options. We need to show them inspirational women in the field, and open their eyes to the variety of roles available within data, as well as the wide range of skills required to succeed in the field.

Investing in the next generation of female data professionals not only fosters inclusivity but also ensures a diverse pool of talent that can drive innovation and shape the future of data-driven industries. By creating equal opportunities and supporting girls' aspirations in data, we pave the way for a more balanced, equitable, and prosperous future. We saw this for ourselves while onsite at the AIG Women’s Open and it was great to see just how many families were there, providing exposure of golf to the next generation and inspiring them.


Mentorship and development programmes

As well as encouraging younger generations into these roles, it’s also important that we look internally at the talent we already have and the skills available. One person noted how one of the senior women within their data team was someone who started their career as an executive assistant. Her skills and aptitude for decision science skills were quickly noticed and her ability to bridge the gap between business and data meant she was perfect for the role.

It's imperative that organisations have opportunities available to realise the potential already within the team. This includes mentorship programmes which help women to realise their potential.

These programmes provide a supportive environment where experienced professionals can share their knowledge, wisdom, and insights with aspiring women, guiding them along their career paths, while also providing a role model. By connecting women with mentors who have navigated similar challenges and achieved success in their respective fields, mentorship programmes help build confidence, expand networks, and foster personal and professional growth. Mentorship programmes not only bridge the gender gap but also contribute to a more inclusive and diverse workforce, ultimately creating a stronger and more equitable society.


Deploying different recruitment tactics and initiating flexible working practices

Deploying different recruitment tactics is essential for encouraging women to apply for roles and addressing the gender imbalance in various industries. It’s widely recognised that traditional recruitment methods may inadvertently perpetuate biases and barriers that discourage women from entering certain fields. We’ve all heard that men will typically apply for a role regardless of whether they tick all of the criteria specified in the job description, yet women will only apply if they tick all of the criteria.

To attract a more diverse candidate pool, organisations should adopt inclusive language, highlight the benefits of diversity in job postings, and actively engage with diverse communities. Proactive outreach initiatives, and utilising targeted social media campaigns, can help reach a wider audience. During the roundtable we discussed a complete rewrite of job descriptions altogether – instead of listing experience and qualifications required, why not highlight the skills necessary to be successful in the role?

Additionally, promoting flexible work arrangements, family-friendly policies, and providing clear pathways for career progression can demonstrate an organisation's commitment to gender equality and create an environment that is welcoming and supportive for all. We discussed how women are often care providers, either to parents or children, and the requirement this places on their working life to provide flexibility. One attendee to the roundtable noted how their organisation lists every job as completely flexible – it can be full time, part time, hybrid, in-office, completely from home. This encourages the very best talent to apply for the role and has a great impact of their recruitment.

By employing diverse and inclusive recruitment strategies, organisations can tap into untapped talent pools and foster a culture of equality and opportunity.


NTT DATA’s commitment

As an organisation that strives to build an inclusive workplace, we are keen to champion all talent and build an inclusive workforce. This is a subject matter that The R&A is also passionate about, as it strives to continue to increase inclusion in the game of golf. As part of this focus, The R&A continues to invest more into the women’s game, as evidenced by the 23% increase in the total prize fund at this year’s AIG Women’s Open, taking it US$9 million, with the 2023 champion – Lilia Vu - earning $1.35 million.

We believe this continued increased investment is required to ensure interest and involvement in the women’s game builds further year on year.

Being at the AIG Women’s Open provided us with a fantastic platform to be inspired by the incredible athleticism showcased, and to learn from the values of sport. Most importantly, it provided the opportunity for us to connect with senior figures within other organisations and see how we can come together to enact change.

On the back of the roundtable, we are looking at ways we can use our collective force to encourage girls into data roles, empower women, and to inspire the next generation.

To learn about our focus on creating inclusion together, click here.

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