Women in Analytics: Why diversity matters for the future of business

It's a good news - bad news story for the gender pay gap in analytics

08 Mar 2018

In today’s headline-hype driven world, you could be mistaken in thinking that data and analytics is a modern phenomenon – a product of the new millennium.

Yes the scale, speed and variety of data has exploded in the last decade but data has been one of the inputs to decision making since numbers were marked on a page.

Likewise, there have been women pushing the envelope of data, analytics and insights for over 150 years.

From Ada Lovelace’s first algorithm for computers and Florence Nightingale’s polar area diagram, to Grace Hopper’s foundations for COBOL, and now the many women today at the leading edge of analytics, algorithms, AI and machine learning (just check out the sample of women in analytics today on the IAPA website), these are a fraction of the women working in data and analytics fields since the 1850’s.

Today that fraction is growing more rapidly.

But is it fast enough?

Do we have analytics teams that are inclusive enough for a world with increasing use of algorithms – a world about to enter an era of artificial intelligence?

Are there enough diverse voices around the table and in teams to ensure we’re not cementing unchecked internal bias into the foundation of tomorrow’s business?

"Are there enough diverse voices around the table and in teams to ensure we’re not cementing unchecked internal bias into the foundation of tomorrow’s business?"

As Jane McCarthy, Data Scientist – Chapter Lead at ANZ says, “diversity (not just in gender) will help make sure we minimise the bias that’s often unintentionally present in data, and therefore in data-driven insights.”

While ‘diverse voices’ embrace the inclusion of diversity of people (eg. of different genders, cultures, ages and sexual orientation), International Women’s Day is a great opportunity to look more closely at gender diversity.

“Getting more women into this field helps to diversify the thinking and provides different approaches to solving business problems. Technology is changing at a rapid rate and the demand for analytics to improve the customer experience is intensifying. It’s a growing area and a great opportunity for more women to help shape this evolution,” commented Dina Redmile, Executive Manager – Customer Decisioning at BankWest.

While our Skills and Salary Survey shows analytics professionals in general don’t feel happiness and salary correlate, the women only cohort is over represented in the slightly or markedly unhappy categories. Perhaps it’s to do with the pay gap.

The median salary for women in analytics is 8 percent less than their male counterparts. The good news is that’s around half the Australian job market pay gap of 15.3 percent and the most equitable industries for analytics are public administration and safety, retail trade and education and training. The bad news is it’s still a pay gap, and increases to a whopping 28 percent at general manager level.


Salaries by seniority and gender

And that’s interesting because the women we interviewed all felt females have fantastic skills that are essential to senior management analytics roles.

“Females have fantastic skills that are essential to senior management analytics roles.”

According to Violetta Misiorek, Senior Manager, Data Science, Chief Data & Transformation Office, Technology, Data and Labs at Suncorp, it’s not just about mathematics, statistics and computer science, “but about innovation, creative thinking, ability to collaborate and capability to bridge technical and business domains. Although there are a lot of amazingly talented women with outstanding technical skills a lot of women are also naturally gifted in communication and capability in leading change.”

It’s a view shared by others, including Kristina Curtis, Head of Digital and Customer Analytics at BT Financial Group, stating “women bring a different perspective to problem solving, which serves them well in the analytics domain. The future is very bright for those women who are interested in pursuing a career in analytics.”

Increasingly, technological advances like machine learning will allow some of the technical heavy lifting to be removed from the day-to-day activities for an analytics professional. The recent Skills and Salary Survey showed a 108% increase in demand for soft skills and is reflected in comments from Kathryn Gulifa, Head of Customer Analytics Innovation, Customer Data & Analytics, Marketing at National Australia Bank.

“Leverage your interpersonal skills to shine in problem identification and insight adoption which are often overlooked and critical to an effective analytics team,” Kathryn says.

Similarly, Jasminne Chong, Senior Analyst, Analytics Hub, Data, Analytics & Reporting, Technology & Operations at National Australia Bank says, “it’s harder to automate an appreciation of how and which techniques are applicable to the problem at hand, as well as the ability to engage with non-analytics stakeholders. These are skills you want to ensure you continue to develop.”

The field of analytics is at a critical point where the ability for today’s leaders to include diverse voices in current day approaches will determine how holistic and unbiased the future foundation of analytics, insights and even business, will be. All the brightest minds are needed at every level of business today.

As Emma Gray, Chief Data Officer at ANZ notes, “success in analytics is about ‘joining the dots’ between disparate silo’d groups, between cause and effect, between disparate data sources that when they come together create magic. It also comes with good judgement and a sense of purpose. Women have significant capability assuming underlying technical and business competence to excel in analytics.”

 Analytics pay gapWEGA data pay gap
Education and Training6%11%
Electricity, Gas and Water-12%11%
Finance & Insurance11%26%
Health Care and Social Assistance8%23%
Information Technology (Hardware or Software)17%--
Information, Media & Telecommunications14%19%
Professional, Scientific and Technical Services8%23%
Public Administrations and Safety1%7%
Retail trade5%8%