What Went Down at the SAP Next-Gen Women in Data Science Conference

SAP Next-Gen held its first Women in Data Science (WiDS) Conference this week, with a satellite event at Wits University’s Tshimologong Precinct, in Johannesburg.

The aim of this initiative is to provide a platform for current and aspiring collaborators, innovators and female business leaders in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields to unlock the tech sector’s potential to effect positive change across the continent.

Launched by Stanford University, this is a series of global supporting satellite events that are taking place in more than 120 locations worldwide, with the purpose to scale the impact of global movement that inspires and educates next generation data scientist and supports young women in the technology field, organisers say.

Up for discussion

The conference had two panel discussion sessions each tackling a different topic. The first session discussed the changing face of Big Data, with the second session looking at  the future of work-career paths as a data professional.

Among the speakers at the panel discussion was the CEO of Tshimologong Precinct, Lesley Williams, who gave the welcoming note to the attendants and said that they are proud to host the first South African chapter of this global event, adding that women should play an integral role in supporting and growing the digital economy.

“We as women in the field of data science are faced with various challenges, such as women being under represented, the work-family conflict and having to prove ourselves more than the male counterparts in this field,” added Williams.

Also speaking at the WiDS conference was the managing director at SAP Africa, Cathy Smith, who noted that the conference was a powerful platform for the advancement of gender equality in the data science field, as a recent US study showed that only 25 percent of data professionals are women.

“We see the women in Data Science conference as a powerful platform for the advancement of gender equality in the data science field, and a key contributor to our efforts to accelerate progress towards the United Nations Development Goal (SGDs), in particular SGD 5 which aims to foster global gender equality,” said Smith.

“The jobs existing today were not there 30 years ago, in the next coming years there will be new and different jobs, that is why we need to stay current and prepare ourselves and children from the new roles,” she added.

More to come?

Besides the Conferences happening globally SAP Next-Gen has introduced the Skills for Africa digital academy locally, which aims to help identify and develop female startups and entrepreneurs on how to grow and develop their businesses.

While there is indeed a wide range of issues that need addressing in order to women a larger contributor to the technology sector and data science in particular, it’s good to see conferences like the SAP Next-Gen one taking place.

This is of course the first step, however, and we’re hoping to hear more stories of empowerment and development when this event rolls round again in 2020.