When I started Corinium in South Africa in November 2015 it never occured to me that there was gender equality in data analytics. Many of the speakers on our first event (CDO Africa 2016) were women and a large number of the 100+ attendees were women too. And the thought-leaders and key sales people from our sponsors were also women.
From the outset I gained a lot of experience and understanding for Elize van der Linde from Firstrand. Her view of the market was that there just wasn’t enough skills in general or enough of a focus on data education. And, at the time the Chief Data Officer of Barclays was female - Yassi Hadjibashi.
Over the past 3 years the number of women in senior data analytics and digital roles has grown significantly. I think a good measure of this is the executive breakfasts I regularly run. In general the audience is evenly split between men and women - and this is not specifically curated by me. I invite based on seniority and sector and it just so happens that the numbers balance out.
However, if a true audit is done on the number of women in data analytics and digital roles vs. men the majority will still sit with men. South Africa, being a progressive and inclusive country, has done well to close gender gaps but there’s a long road ahead to reach parity.
And this begins at school level in my opinion. Young girls need to be made aware of the growing importance, and need, of data analytics and digital jobs in the modern economy - and the 4th Industrial Revolution. The perception that these STEM roles are more suited to males needs to be changed.
And this is why I decided to launch the “Women in Digital & Data” series this year. It was more to shine a light on the female leaders in this space and to create a forum whereby the challenges faced could be discussed. In all honesty I did grapple with the concept - would women be offended that we’d created a ‘women only’ event? Isn’t that counterintuitive to an inclusive workforce?
Through conversation and consultation with the industry I believe we’ve created a model that has been extremely valuable in creating and sustaining the conversation. More importantly the events are not dominated by ‘soft topics’ but rather balanced between technical expertise sharing and strategies for empowerment.
We have been privileged to have received incredible support from the industry and through that this series, and community, will continue to grow and add value back to the market.
I’m looking forward to an excellent 2019!