How women can find mentors in the field of data science

Although it may take a bit more effort in finding a mentor in this field, all data scientists will be much better off by learning from an expert

mentor senior person listening to conversation
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Mentorship is key to professional growth in any industry. Given that many data science positions are so new, finding a mentor who understands the field is crucial for advancement. Data science is dominated by men, so this can be a difficult task for women seeking guidance.

Master data scientist Nate Silver, author of The Signal and the Noise and founder and editor in chief of FiveThirtyEight, explains how to move forward in data science:

I think actually when people are self-taught with occasional guidance, with occasional pushes here and there, that could work well. An ideal situation is when you’re studying on your own and maybe you have some type of mentor who you talk to now and then.

While finding a mentor can be a challenge, for women the challenge is intensified in this male-dominated industry. Here are resources for female data scientists looking to find mentors in the field.

Organizations that foster mentorship

AnitaB.org helps women make significant contributions to technical fields, including data science, through a robust network of partners and sponsors. The organization has programs, awards, and events to empower and recognize women technologists and enable women to network and find mentors to support each other through a technological-based career. The online community for women in tech, Systers, was founded by Anita Borg and 12 other members, and it provides a safe space for women to connect.

Codementor calls itself “an on-demand marketplace for top data science engineers, developers, consultants, architects, programmers, and tutors.” The platform allows anyone to search for a mentor based on a request and chat live with that person.

Women in Big Data seeks to “champion the success of women in big data and to increase women’s representation in big data to 25 percent by 2020.” From hosting events to providing resources, WiBD helps women in the field find mentors and career advancement opportunities.

Events that allow for networking

Another great way to find a mentor is through networking events. Here are two upcoming events for 2018.

Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing is produced by AnitaB.org and hosts women in technology from around the world. This year’s event will occur in September with keynote speaker Melinda Gates.

Women in Data Science Conference offers networking opportunities and renowned female data science speakers from around the world. Held in March, this event brings together a host of opportunities for women seeking mentorship in data science.

Other ways to find mentorship

Data science bootcamps offer a way for women to learn about the industry and connect directly with a mentor. The top bootcamps offer one-on-one mentorship opportunities so that all participants leave the classroom prepared.

Join LinkedIn pages such as the Women in Big Data Forum and reach out directly to potential mentors via direct message. Many professionals are willing to help, so take an active approach to finding someone that can guide you through your data science career. Furthermore, once you move upward in the data science world, offer to mentor other women in the field.

Join or host a meetup to meet other local women in data science. Host through Meetup.com or organizations such as AnitaB.org or Women in Big Data, groups that have a far reach. Hosting can take as little effort as finding a location for everyone to meet but can mean serious networking opportunities for all that attend.

Focus on forward-thinking organizations that promote women in tech. Organizations such as the Hive and Verizon Ventures, which cohosted the Women in Data Science conference, strive to make women a more substantial part of the technology and data science community. If you are an entrepreneur looking for an incubator, funding, or guidance, focus on those types of organizations that make women empowerment a priority.

Once your career takes off, it’s important to become a mentor. Sun Microsystems conducted a study on the effects of mentoring from 1996 through 2009 and found impressive results.

  • 25 percent of mentees and 28 percent of mentors enjoyed positive change in their salary grade, contrasted with only 5 percent among nonparticipants.
  • Employees who received mentoring were promoted five times more often than people who didn’t have mentors.
  • Mentors were six times more likely to have been promoted to a bigger job.

Overall, the study stressed the importance of having and becoming a mentor in a workplace or career field.

The power of mentorship is well-documented. Having a mentor can help women define their career goals, remain accountable, and move up the ranks in data science. Though it may take a bit more effort in finding a mentor in this field, all data scientists will be much better off by learning from an expert.

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