Workplace inequality is an ongoing debate that might one day become an outdated concept. TLL met data entrepreneur Edwina Dunn – the woman behind The Female Lead and the Tesco Clubcard – whose mission, together with Women in Data UK (WiD), is to inspire and empower women to follow their career dreams.
Focusing on encouraging women to work in data and STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), WiD and Edwina realise inspiration needs to start early.
The gender talent gap
“The disconnect between girls and STEM-related career paths happens at school,” says Edwina, “Of 74% that express an interest in STEM topics and careers, only 0.4% choose computer science degrees”. Young girls are rarely encouraged to pursue maths and science, so miss out on creative, rewarding, highly skilled and well-paid careers of the future, such as robot counsellor, wearable technology therapist, gamification designer, cloud engineer, or data scientist.
The importance of female role models
‘If they can do it, why can’t I?’ 62% want access to female role models from technical disciplines. Edwina believes media stereotypes create misconceptions that this type of work is ‘dead end’ or ‘poorly paid’, with girls seeing few women in powerful positions.
Collaboration between The Female Lead and WiD, Twenty in Data and Technology showcases 20 successful, inspirational women working in data and technology. [Twenty in Data box-out here?]
How can schools and parents help?
Often discouraged from more ‘challenging’ subjects, such as maths and science, due to a focus on achieving grades in potentially ‘less demanding’ subjects, girls are ultimately deprived access to many high-paid, fast-growing careers.
Edwina says, “Girls underestimate their performance despite often achieving better results in maths and physics than boys, so fewer take the subjects at A level. But employers often view lower grades in a science subject well, too”.
Parents can update their knowledge of growing career opportunities in science and technology at www.futurefinder.yourlife.org.uk.
What is The Female Lead?
‘You can’t be what you can’t see.’ Founded by Edwina, The Female Lead non-profit campaign celebrates global female ability, achievement, endeavour and diversity. It makes women’s stories more visible, offering alternative role models through online and social media presence, and a school outreach programme. It is gifting 18,000 copies of The Female Lead book to UK and USA secondary schools (see www.thefemalelead.com), and works with universities and colleges.
An ongoing mission?
Entitled ‘Year of the Woman’, 2018 has been a remarkable, progressive year for women and gender equality worldwide, but according to WiD there is still work to be done in the data and technology fields.
Did you follow your own childhood ambitions?
Far-removed from her girlhood aspirations of truck driver and then foreign office diplomat, Edwina was inspired by social philanthropist and early big data pioneer, Charles Booth, whose 1890s classifications of the London population helped shape the UK pension system and social services.
“His pioneering, philanthropic vision inspired my formative career steps, as I created and used new technology in the 1980s to analyse the big data generated by the Census.”
Today, Edwina wants to help girls learn resilience and bravery, and to realise success doesn’t come overnight.
Did you experience workplace inequality?
Working in the male-dominated retailing, marketing, technology and data industries, Edwina was often the only female in the boardroom, but this helped her develop tactics to overcome her lone voice, fuelling her passion for change.
What have been your career highlights?
In 1994, Tesco approached us (dunnhumby, the company I set up with my husband Clive Humby) about its loyalty card plans. Our defining, most exciting moment was when we analysed their trial data and the then-chairman Lord MacLaurin said, “What scares me is you know more about my customers after three months than I know after 30 years”.
dunnhumby launched the world’s first supermarket loyalty card in 1995, propelling Tesco into a market leadership position, doubling its market share in just over one year.
“By 2011, dunnhumby had 1,500 people (50% female), reaching 350 million customers in 25 countries – an amazing and uplifting achievement.”
What is Women in Data UK?
Founded by data recruitment specialists, Rachel Keane and Roisin McCarthy, with Payal Jain as Chair, WiD is a non-profit organisation dedicated to educating women in data science, analytics and business intelligence through mentoring and events, such as its WiD UK women-only conferences.
Rachel and Roisin attended Downing Street on International Women’s Day 2018 to celebrate their work, and both were recently listed in the Top 10 women in the UK to be actively changing the data landscape.
Payal achieved Number One in the 2016 DataIQ Big Data 100, receiving many accolades for her involvement in the data industry.
Female recruitment in data has risen by 15% rise in the past two years.
What is Twenty in Data and Technology?
This second annual celebration of peer-nominated, pioneering and empowering female leaders launches at WiD UK 2018 on 29th November at Westminster’s Central Hall. This year’s collection comprises filmed interviews and iconic photographs intended to inspire entrepreneurs, practitioners