Rethinking Diversity: Why investing in women is crucial to f
Rethinking Diversity: Why investing in women is crucial to futureproofing data and analytics
19 June 2020 | News
Olivia Duane Adams, CCO and co-founder, Alteryx
A business can only stay relevant if it’s reflective. Reflective of issues, interests, and most of all, its customer base. Granted, in the early era, data and analytics was widely regarded a male dominated niche. Computer scientists—who were mostly male—would huddle over monitors, tapping up tailored solutions for a handful of loyal tech businesses.
Times have changed considerably since then. Across markets and industries, the modern consumer demands personalised interaction, and with that, the need for data science has peaked. Businesses, large and small, are seeking ways to use analytics to amplify customer connection and company performance. Business is not “one size fits all” anymore; its structure is expansive and complex.
Yet, with so much to tackle in 2020, how is it feasibly possible for us to successfully connect with an increasingly diverse customer base?
I think, first and foremost, we need to take a step back and consider what diversity truly means. The world has weathered drastic changes in equality and customer expectation over the past decade, which has positively impacted the way we promote products. Walk through any bustling city, or flick through a glossy magazine, and you’ll be reined in by vibrant marketing campaigns of smiling models of all genders and ethnicities. The advertising shift is overdue, but reassuring, nonetheless. It seems that we’re on our way to cracking the superficial side, it’s the lesser exposed, internal work that’s lacking the same momentum.
This part of the puzzle comes down to leadership. Looking at tech businesses who have boards of white men, and a predominantly male workforce, I find claims around diversity problematic. Being truly diverse, to me, means reflecting the population in your people. Critically, culture needs to be a CEO-level priority. In June 2019, we introduced Alter.Us, a programme aimed at promoting comprehensive diversity across leadership and associates. Our idea of diversity here was not limited to any specific definition, but spans everything from race to cognitive thinking.
McKinsey reported that companies with diverse leadership tend to have better financial returns, the consensus being that, when we collaborate with people who experience the world in a different way to us, we open doors to new markets and possibilities.
The argument, of course, is even more relevant in the current climate. A diverse leadership is best placed to grasp the impacts a global pandemic might have on a company’s employees and customers. For example, how it might hinder new mothers, or the ways it might negatively impact the progression of employees with disabilities. Fundamentally, one of the greatest challenges is understanding the needs and circumstances of individuals.
A clued-up leadership team is also able to respond to these difficult situations, while continuing to plough investment into filling the skills gap. By the end of May, an enormous 8.4 million roles had been put on furlough in the UK.
We’d recently created ADAPT, a virtual course on data science and analytics for industry beginners, and we saw this as the perfect opportunity to offer resource to aspiring data scientists who had a little extra time on their hands. The course Is free to access and offers recognised qualifications on completion. As a diverse leadership team, we are acutely aware of female underrepresentation across the industry, and this is one of the tools we’re using to make data education accessible to all.
Fundamentally, positive change and open communication starts at the top. It’s up to us—those in leadership of data and analytics businesses—to think forward and equip the next generation of data scientists. In 10 years’ time, it’ll be the businesses that are fully representative of their customer base who will lead the curve. That’s not a quick fix. To stay ahead and meet customer expectation of tomorrow, we need to promote diversity and inclusion approaches to problem solving today.