Last year the DAA formed a “Women in Analytics” group. The goal of the group is to build awareness of women working within digital analytics as well as discuss ways to support women within the industry.
As the initial meetings began to gain momentum with more and more attendees, one of the things we found ourselves talking about often was the experience of women working in our industry. There have been several high profile stories about women’s experiences working in professions heavily dominated by men - most notably software engineering, and we are continuously reminded of wage gap issues which have been documented across many, many industries. While a few of us offered some anecdotes, I thought it would be helpful to record some of our thoughts and experiences in a format which could be shared openly.
I created a survey focused on collecting perspectives from respondents around the following: Challenges, Benefits, and General Feedback about working in the digital analytics industry as a female.
Respondents (18 total) ranged in roles from Analyst/Individual contributor up through VP/Partner/Executive. Average tenure in the industry was 7.5 years - with a handful of Analyst/Individual Contributors noting between 1.5-3 years of experience, and several respondents spanning roles comprising Consultants, VP’s, Partners, or Executives indicating 10-16 years of experience.
The first question centered around identifying any challenges women perceive in the industry. Responses fell into the following categories:
Credibility and Visibility: Most respondents cited issues around their personal credibility or visibility as the greatest challenge. Whether it is being heard, taken seriously, or feeling the need to prove oneself (and feeling as though we don’t see men encounter the same challenge), the women in our survey highlighted this area as one of the bigger frustrations.
Here are some direct quotes from the survey:
“To be effective as an analyst, your analysis needs to be heard, and your insights actioned. I find just being HEARD as a woman, is difficult. In more than one meeting I was told it was nice to have a 'girl' at the table. Not a woman, a girl.”
“I have often felt my recommendations and advice are taken more seriously when echoed by a male colleague, and more than once have asked a male colleague to either communicate or reinforce something when I need a point taken seriously.”
“On too many occasions to count, my recommendations are not acknowledged until they are repeated by a (male) colleague. To counter this, I have identified a few men that I prep prior to the meeting in order to have them back me up/echo me within the meeting.”
“…at meetups/conferences being asked to prove knowledge - men will ask very complicated technical questions of women they just meet, but of other men they just ask where they work; constant references to "the tech guys" or assumptions of "he" pronouns with technical roles (e.g., "tell your developer HE should [...]" where HE is an assumption); always being talked over in a room where I am the expert (happens less on phone).
“The blockages I have faced are not of the outspoken sexist pig variety. It is the unconscious bias, the otherwise-lovely-person who will prefer a man's opinion, that I come up against.”
This feedback was among the most disheartening to read, because as analysts, credibility is a critical attribute we must possess in order to deliver credible, believable insights within our organizations. Put another way, imagine having someone look over your head, or to others in the room each time you say something, and only accepting what you say to be true if someone else repeats it.
Career Growth & Work/Life Balance: Women responding to the survey also noted some challenges getting into the role they want (vs what someone else assigns them based on assumptions) opportunities for advancement, balancing family responsibilities, and how this might impact their opportunities for growth in their careers.
“It's hard to say whether any [of] my challenges are directly related to being a woman, but did I have a hard time actually getting into the field. At the time, I was working as a digital strategist, but I was also preparing all of our agency's client reports, providing detailed analysis and insights for marketing analytics. I made it very clear to my bosses (the owners of the company) that I wanted to move more into data analysis than strategy, but instead of giving me more responsibility (which I had already more than proven I could handle), they actually hired an entirely new analyst (coincidentally, a man). It was a pretty big slap in the face, and I didn't last much longer with the company.”
“It’s difficult to grow in the Industry”
“Difficult finding leadership roles”
“My skillset is more technical, but it seems employers always want to put me in a marketing role.”
“Family/work balance. I feel businesses still work as if personal lives don't matter, so having last minute meetings at 5pm are no big deal. As a female, it is with responsibilities to pick up kids and take care of them, sometimes there isn't the flexibility that we need. That is why consulting continues to be so appealing to me because it provides more flexibility.”
“In tech as a whole, general resentment when you start a family that I don't think men get. Even from the most well-intentioned managers.”
These responses are not necessarily isolated to the analytics industry per se, but do represent challenges that women cite as they progress through their careers.
Overall representation of women in the industry
“Finding role models and mentors, connecting with other women who have similar interests”
“Not enough representation from women in the industry”
While not mentioned as often as the other challenges, finding people you can relate to in your career is important. Finding people you are comfortable discussing questions, problems or professional challenges helps you build your personal network and can increase your chances of finding new opportunities in the future.
And now - on the flip side, we asked “Are there any benefits to being a woman in our industry that you would like to share?” I’d expected respondents to mostly answer with ways they feel being a woman in our industry has benefited themselves, but was delighted to see some women interpreted the question as, “what are the benefits of having more women working in our industry.”
What Women Can Contribute to the Analytics Industry & Their Roles:
“Empathy is an important attribute that I and many women possess. Very helpful when in difficult circumstances.”
“Offering the woman's perspective in a world of male-dominated analytics. We are able to look at problems from a different angle.”
“I feel there is a good mix of men and women and opportunities for women in our industry. Unlike software engineering which is so male-dominated, digital analytics also leans on marketing expertise which is more female-dominated.”
Camaraderie with other Women:
“On the rare occasion that I come across another woman in our industry, or in management in business, there is an element of camaraderie that is really beautiful.”
“I feel supported by many strong, smart, supportive women in our industry. We look out for each other.”
“I would like to say that being a woman in the analytics industry is better than being a woman in software. From having been both the analytics community is much more welcoming and treats women more equally than software development.”
“Immediate kinship with other women! Desire to support and prop up others! A wonderful opportunity to promote change!”
Bias? What bias? It’s important to note that some respondents felt they really have never experienced bias, been discriminated against, or held back due to their gender.
“I don't know if I'm naive or lucky, but I do feel like I haven't faced much discrimination in our industry. There have been isolated incidents but I don't feel like I've been "held back" at all. I do recognize that I may suffer from not "leaning in"... even if no one is discriminating against me, I may be opting myself out of opportunities for fear of being needy/bossy/high-maintenance.”
“I honestly have never felt discriminated against because of my gender. I probably just have been lucky with good managers and good employers.”
On the plus side: Not every woman cited a negative challenge. And, while not necessarily ideal, many of the challenges cited by women are issues which can face women in any industry…. not necessarily unique to the digital analytics industry.
The downside: The issues of credibility and advancement opportunities are concerning. And to the degree they are intertwined is challenging. Credibility is central to our roles as data experts, story tellers, trusted deliverers of insights and recommendations. Credibility is necessary to gain more responsibility and move into new or bigger roles.
Parting thoughts and questions: How can we become more aware of the issue of credibility and bias? Have you seen this play out within your organizations? What can people do when they see it? Without credibility, can an analyst move into bigger and better roles, gain new responsibilities and advance their careers? How is this impacting women’s career opportunities at large in our industry?#WomeninAnalytics