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  • Writer's pictureLeily L Sanchez

Women in Data Science 2020 Conference at Cal State LA

When asked about an all-female speaker conference with quizzical looks, Associate Dean for Educational Affairs in the School of Earth, Energy and Environmental Sciences at Stanford University and co-director of the Women in Data Science Conference, Margot Gerritsen replies:

"Bob couldn't make it...We couldn't find any male speakers."

Margot Gerritsen was motivated to help create the Women in Data Science conference at Stanford when she was unable to attend a conference as a keynote speaker and was replaced by a male speaker, effectively making the conference devoid of female presenters. She adds that when she asked why a man replaced her, the conference organizers responded that they couldn't find a female speaker.

Inspired by this experience and the principle that 'you can't be what you can't see,' the conference motivates the women of today to continue to pave the way for the future of women in the field and to foster development and interest in data through interactive programming targeted at children, high schoolers and professionals. In essence, the conference encourages women to be what they want to be despite the low visibility of data science role models that look like them.

Now in its fifth year, the conference is hosted at Stanford University and broadcasted live to over 200+ regional locations, 175+ cities and 60+ countries. And, with over 500+ ambassadors, the conference attendance and live broadcasting demand are growing. Today, I had the pleasure of attending the conference at Cal State LA for the first time since I enrolled at the university.

The broadcast began at around 9 a.m. in the Golden Eagle Ballroom at Cal State LA. Noticeably, there were few students in attendance, but the room quickly filled as the morning turned into the afternoon.

The Stanford broadcast included topics on the importance of inclusion and diversity in data science, the intersection of machine learning and high-dimensional bio-health data, predictive analytics use in human clinical outcomes and a panel discussion about exciting new research and the ethics involved in data science.

After the broadcasted panel discussion, the College of Natural and Social Sciences Dean, Pamela Scott-Johnson, gave the opening welcome followed by live presentations from guest speakers deputy chief information officer of the City of Los Angeles, The Walt Disney Company director of management sciences and integration and the Los Angeles County of Arts director of Research and Evaluation.

Topics included skills needed to be a data scientist and career development opportunities at Disney, an overview of the exciting data-driven projects by the City of Los Angeles in partnership with Cal State LA and a presentation of the illuminating research from the Research and Evaluation department of the Los Angeles County of Arts completed in the past year.

It was a wonderful experience. I learned so much about the exciting career opportunities in data science and how important it is to make technology, biomedical and data science literacy accessible to the public. It is a need that I will take into consideration as I begin my search for full-time opportunities.

It is certainly a need that I'd be very excited to fill as I firmly believe that society isn't fully inclusive if its technology and science knowledge is not shared or understood by the general public, especially to those without the opportunities for an early introduction to STEM education.

Special thanks to Cal State LA for bringing this conference to our campus community!



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