Last week, more than 150 technology leaders convened at the SAP campus in Palo Alto, California, to talk about diversity, technology, and business development at the Women in Data Science (WiDS) Silicon Valley @ SAP event.
Jenny Lundberg, senior director of Developer Relations at SAP, has more than 20 years of experience working with new products and technologies like SAP Mobile Platform, Duet Enterprise software, SAP Gateway technology, and SAP Cloud Platform. While presenting, she shared insight into the importance of events like it and why they are key to increasing the pipeline of female leaders in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) careers, as well as and why SAP needs to be a part of that discussion.
Passionate about SAP, technology, and paving the way for women in tech roles, Lundberg sees WiDS Silicon Valley @ SAP as a safe place for women to speak and present on various tech-related topics. And while the event – and certainly the conversations that come from it – is open to everyone, speaking roles are reserved for women only. According to a 2018 survey by event software company Bizzabo, women make up only 22 percent of speakers at tech events. As WiDS continues to gain popularity and traction, hopefully that number will go up.
“It’s a very supportive environment and it connects women from different data science disciplines,” Lundberg said. “When you bring that together, you make new connections and innovations are created. An event like this that is driven by women and executed by women reminds me of Rosie the Riveter and the ‘We Can Do It’ attitude.”
Under the direction of Ann Rosenberg, senior vice president and global head of the SAP Next-Gen program, Lundberg and the rest of the Business Women’s Network at SAP Silicon Valley found that having WiDS Silicon Valley @ SAP to be a perfect fit. At the inaugural event in 2017, SAP Next-Gen organized 24 satellite events in 20 countries, where women leaders from SAP and partners inspired more than 3,000 participants, including students, professors, startups, and industry partners, to join the movement of bringing women into data science. This year, between the official Global WiDS event and 150 regional events, it was reported to have reached more than 100,000 participants.
“It’s about showing that SAP plays an important part in data science,” said Lundberg. “We have artificial intelligence, machine learning, Big Data, and so many other technologies right here at SAP Silicon Valley that teams are using in solutions to build out the Intelligent Enterprise. I wanted to showcase what we can do.”
To Lundberg and plenty of others at SAP, it’s important to have women data scientists because “it’s a field where women’s strengths are needed.” According to Lundberg, the role needs lots of creativity, problem solving, ethical thinking, and cross collaboration, which women are good at doing. She wants the trend to be that women in data science becomes more mainstream; she doesn’t want to see women moving out of the field. Lundberg’s hope is that more women in the field begets more women in the field. Not only that, but if women don’t see other successful women data scientists, they won’t want to make that investment.
“If you don’t identify with that group, it’s not relatable,” said Lundberg. “We need to continue having successful women serve as role models so that we can continue coming up with new innovations and ideas and start new companies. Last year and this year, we had many students coming to our event where we discussed opportunities and internships. They saw we had amazing women here and want to be part of that.”
At WiDS Silicon Valley @ SAP, it’s largely about showcasing how much women in the field know and what they can do. “It’s important for men to be a part of this, too,” said Lundberg. “Diverse teams win the game. We innovate with all genders, background, and ethnicities. Together, these amazing backgrounds can create something bigger.”
To summarize the day, Lundberg provided some calls to action for the participants:
- Share your knowledge, be visible, and speak up
- Be a role model and inspire others to join the field
- Connect and build bridges across data science disciplines
- Support other women
- Do not be afraid to try other roles relevant to your experience
- Be educated, be inspired, and go out and change the world
Follow the conversation on social media with the hashtag #WiDS2019.
Magen Mintchev oversees general management and administration for SAP Silicon Valley Communications.