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General Assembly

Data Science Education Lags Behind in Diversity

Below is an article originally written by PowerToFly Partner General Assembly, and published on September 25, 2017. Go to General Assembly's page on PowerToFly to see their open positions and learn more.

As gender and racial representation improve in other tech disciplines, the study of data science hasn't caught up.

In the past few years, much attention has been drawn to the dearth of women and people of color in tech-related fields. A recent article in Forbes noted, "Women hold only about 26% of data jobs in the United States. There are a few reasons for the gender gap: a lack of STEM education for women early on in life, lack of mentorship for women in data science, and human resources rules and regulations not catching up to gender balance policies, to name a few." Federal civil rights data further demonstrate that "black and Latino high school students are being shortchanged in their access to high-level math and science courses that could prepare them for college" and for careers in fields like data science.

As an education company offering tech-oriented courses at 20 campuses across the world, General Assembly is in a unique position to analyze the current crop of students looking to change the dynamics of the workplace.

Looking at GA data for our part-time programs (which typically reach students who already have jobs and are looking to expand their skill set as they pursue a promotion or a career shift), here's what we found: While great strides have been made in fields like web development and user experience (UX) design, data science — a relatively newer concentration — still has a ways to go in terms of gender and racial equality.

Gender Equality in Data Science

For our analysis, we went through five months' worth (September 2016 through January 2017) of anonymized enrollment data for part-time General Assembly students (those enrolled in 10- to 12-week evening courses). It is important to note that our full-time Immersive course data yielded similar results, but we chose to focus on part-time data because the sample size was bigger.

First, let's take a look specifically at the gender breakdown of students in these courses.

On average, our part-time courses skew more female (56.5%) than male (42.3%).

Some courses, like Product Management and Data Analytics, seem to come close to gender parity. Front-End Web Development falls in right around the average across all courses, and in Digital Marketing and User Experience Design, both more consumer-facing fields, two-thirds or more students are women.

But the Data Science course shows the largest composition of male students — and the lowest of female students, at just 35.3%.

Race and Ethnicity in Data Science

Turning to the same anonymized data set, let's now look at race and ethnicity. Is GA's Data Science course equally lacking in minority participation?

At first glance, it appears that Data Science courses fare pretty well in diversity: The percentage of enrolled students who are white (46.1%) is less than average (46.9%).

But looking specifically at Hispanic/Latino and African-American students, the course has — by far — the lowest total percentage of students.

To put this data in context, the population of the United States is 62% white, 17% Hispanic or Latino, 12% African-American, and 6% Asian/Pacific Islander.

Just 11.8% of part-time Data Science enrollees are Hispanic/Latino or African-American. That's 5.7% below the overall average, and nearly half of the figure in the Front-End Web Development courses.

Education in Data Science

This data set also gives us insight into the highest level of education attained from part-time enrollees across GA courses.

On average, Data Science students come in with the highest degree attainment.

Across all courses, 85.4% of part-time GA students have a bachelor's degree or higher; in Data Science, that figure is 93.8%. This seems to largely be driven by the fact that there are far more master's and Ph.D. graduates in Data Science (37.7%) than the overall average (24.%). A surprisingly high 3.7% of students hold a Ph.D. — more than triple the average of 1.2%.

Data Science seems to draw from a smaller, more specialized pool, which could, in part, perpetuate diversity issues.

Data Science Is Still New

Female and minority students have made positive strides in coding and tech education at GA.

When coding and web development started getting popular two decades ago, the fields were almost entirely dominated by men — most of whom were white. Looking at our data here, though, it's clear things have changed for the better: Front-End Web Development courses are now 57% female and boast the highest percentage of students of color of any course.

At General Assembly, we're proud of the growing diversity of our global community, and we actively seek to create an environment where women, people of color, LGBTQ+ individuals, and other underrepresented communities feel empowered to pursue tech and digital training that they may have previously felt was unwelcoming or inaccessible.

Since data science is still a relatively new field, it is possible things may just take some time to equalize. But we should not be complacent. To help accelerate the process, GA has implemented a number of social impact programs (focusing mainly on our full-time Immersive courses), and engages local and federal governments and well as corporate leaders to move the needle on access and diversity. These programs, which have served hundreds of students over the past two years, have created economic mobility for underserved and overlooked talent.

Some specific examples of that work include a partnership with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio's Tech Talent Pipeline program, through which GA helped dozens of low-income New Yorkers gain data analytics skills through our part-time programs. We recently launched a similar program through a U.S. Department of Labor grant. The private sector is also starting to step up — BNY Mellon recently invested in General Assembly's Opportunity Fund to train women and people of color to become data scientists.

General Assembly also works with large organizations to increase diversity within their teams. For less than the cost of traditional recruiting agencies, we find high-potential candidates from underrepresented groups, train them in web development, data analytics, or data science, and strategically place them for maximum impact. To ensure that new talent thrives, we offer robust onboarding training that gives both talent and managers the skills and strategies they need for long-term success.

We know these are important early steps, and that we have much work to do to cultivate a more diverse and inclusive data sector.

popular

7 Women in Software Engineering Share Their Experiences

A Look At The Challenges They've Faced & How Their Companies Support Them

We know that the ratio of women to men in software engineering is overwhelmingly low. Scroll through just about any company's roster on Linkedin and see for yourself. It's depressing.

If you're not in the mood to engage in that little experiment, just check out this PwC study that found that only 15% of employees in STEM roles in the U.K. are women, and that women hold a mere 5% of leadership roles in the tech sector.

However, we also know that diversity is the top priority for 78% of talent leaders. This is good news for us, because our goal at PowerToFly is to close these gender gaps as quickly as possible - and the more companies that get on board, the faster we can do that.

We partner with companies that are not only committed to diversity and inclusion, but to fostering a sense of belonging for underrepresented candidates once they accept job offers.

In the meantime, we know that the struggle for many women and other minorities in tech is still real, and that being a woman in this male-dominated industry is no cake walk. That's why we invited women engineers at some of our partner companies to share their experiences in their own words.

They shared some of the biggest challenges they've faced as women in tech and how they overcame them, as well as why they feel supported and enjoy working at their current companies.

We hope reading about these experiences will make other women in software engineering realize they're not alone in the challenges they're facing, and that there are lots of companies making strides to better support women in tech. We also hope that reading this will inspire more companies to follow suit, especially given that women leave the tech industry at twice the rate of men.

Hats off to these 7 women and to the companies that support their work:

What's the coolest thing Promptworks does to support women engineers?

"One of my favorite things about Promptworks is how all the female engineers support each other. Having an amazing group of colleagues to lean on, vent to, and seek advice from has been vital to me. As soon as I joined the engineering team, I felt immediately part of this amazing family of women who also have my back."

—M.K., Software Engineer at Promptworks

Want to join Promptworks' team of Women Engineers?
They're hiring!

More about PromptWorks:
Promptworks builds custom software for companies by creating amazing technologies that help achieve their vision.

Benefits include:
Monthly work-from-home flexibility, Collegial atmosphere with family-style lunch twice a week on us, ergonomic work stations including seated & standing pair programming stations, 100% company-paid medical, dental, and vision insurance, 401(k) plan with company matching and more!

Why did you choose to work at Yelp?

"The best thing about Yelp is the culture. I had an amazing interview process which reflected how much Yelp values their employees. Once I got through, I received a welcome card from my team and AWE group and I still feel very loved at Yelp. Also, I love the people! They are very smart and innovative and Yelp gives us all the freedom to vent out our creativity."

—Supriya, Backend Engineer at Yelp.

Want to join Yelp's team of Women Engineers?
They're hiring!

More about Yelp:
Yelp engineering culture is driven by our values: we're a cooperative team that values individual authenticity and encourages "unboring" solutions to problems.

Benefits include:
Medical, dental, and vision insurance - 100% covered for Yelp employees, 401k program with company match, parental program: Bright Horizons, mother's rooms, paid baby bonding leave, well being and stress management resources, and more!

What's the biggest challenge you've faced at Ubiquity6 and how did you overcome it?

"One of the personal challenges I've dealt with at Ubiquity6 is imposter syndrome, which was definitely amplified by working with so many incredible engineers. Thankfully, my team is really supportive and I have been able to take ownership over some important projects. The combination of getting great constructive feedback while framing my mindset towards improvement has really helped build my confidence as an engineer."

—Robyn, Software Engineer at Ubiquity6

Want to join Ubiquity6's team of Women Engineers?
They're hiring!

More about Ubiquity6:
We work with the design, infrastructure, and game engine teams to help guide the user through complex workflows involving spatial mapping, dynamic code loading, and game engine orchestration. Our challenge is to tie together all the different pieces of technology in a way that feels seamless to the end user.

Benefits include:
Generous PTO, flexible work hours, work-from-home, remote positions, medical and dental benefits including family coverage, and more!

What's the coolest thing Verisign does to support women engineers?

"Verisign has been extremely warm and welcoming. Your opinions and ideas are heard irrespective your gender and position in the company. Verisign has a Women in Technology group which organizes monthly workshops and seminars, encouraging women to participate and demonstrate their skills. It is attended by the entire company and not just women. The company is full of empowering women who constantly motivate you to break the stereotypes and fulfill your passion."

—Shreyashi, Software Engineer at Verisign

Want to join Verisign's team of Women Engineers?
They're hiring!

More about Verisign:
Verisign, a leader in domain names and internet infrastructure, enables internet navigation for many of the world's most recognized domain names.

Benefits include:
Medical, dental, vision and prescription plans, traditional and Roth 401(k) with company match, basic life insurance, optional life insurance for employee, spouse or child(ren), home and auto insurance and more!

What’s one of the most impactful things One Medical does for women engineers?

"I recently attended a fireside chat with Sheryl Sandberg who pointed out that while there are increasing programs aimed at bringing women into technical roles, there aren't as many women being promoted. One of the most impactful things I see that One Medical does is actually hire and promote female engineers into both senior engineering roles and engineering management roles. Not only are they being promoted, but there is noticeable support before, during, and after the promotion. Growth and learning is a big part of the culture here, and I am excited to take part in such a fulfilling company."

—Vanessa, Data Engineer at One Medical

Want to join One Medical's team of Women Engineers?
They're hiring!

More about One Medical:
One Medical builds amazing end-to-end solutions to connect patients and our care team in new and innovative ways.highly collaborative environment, not only will you be partnering with designers and product managers, you'll also be sitting shoulder to shoulder with the doctors and nurses who deliver care daily to One Medical patients.

Benefits include:
Top-notch dental, vision, and health insurance, paid parental leave, PTO, paid holidays, and sabbatical at 5 and 10 years
401K Match, One Medical membership for you and your family and more!

What's the coolest thing Fair does to support women engineers?

"Gender equity is a big thing at Fair. I once received a Fair-branded jacket that didn't quite fit right in the sleeves and waist. I tried to return it, but my boss wouldn't hear of it, citing Susan Fowler's leather jacket incident. Fair immediately offered to cover the jacket alteration costs for myself and other women in the company. I'm grateful to work at a place that values and includes its female employees as much as Fair does."

—Michelle, Lead Software Engineer at Fair.

Want to join Fair's team of Women Engineers?
They're hiring!

More about Fair:
We are looking for highly motivated engineers interested in delivering the next level of innovation to product search and discovery at Fair. You'll be designing and implementing new search features and the systems behind them, including the integration of natural language processing, heuristics, and machine learning systems used to generate and rank search results. You'll work with microservices on AWS, multiple languages, and a great engineering team with a fun culture.

Benefits include:
Equity incentives, 100% coverage of medical, vision and dental premiums for employees and their families, 100% paid parental leave for 4 months, 401(k) retirement plans and free lunch 5 days a week for every employee and more!

In moments of self-doubt or adversity, how do you build yourself back up?

"Coming from coding school, my background was not in computer science nor did I graduate from college with a degree in engineering, so it has always been a bit of a struggle to build myself up. I remind myself that everyone is going through a learning process. I have spoken to my mentor about having imposter syndrome when I first started working at Yelp. He let me know that even he has moments of imposter syndrome. It is easier to relate to somebody when you hear that they are going through the same struggles as you and it's a good reminder that nobody is here to judge you. I think it's great that even when you mess up you don't have to be worried about getting fired. Yelp has a very supportive environment. In times of adversity I try to calm myself down and realize that everyone makes mistakes and tries to learn from them to be better."

—Julie, Full Stack Engineer at Yelp.

Scroll up or click here to learn more about Yelp & how to join their team.

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Want to see more great roles at companies committed to recruiting more women in software engineering? Check out our job board!

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