Are gender stereotypes preventing women from pursuing careers in STEM fields? Do women innately have “softer” skills that could make them successful data scientists? I’m an advocate for STEAM education (science, technology, engineering, arts and math). I’m also a coach and trainer who teaches collaborative communication skills to technical professionals. Not surprisingly, I find this to be an interesting discussion.
In the field of data science, the numbers don’t lie. While the number of female data scientists is currently disproportionate to men, the employment demands and signs from academia are encouraging. We may have to fight a little harder to break down the stereotypes that have prevented women from entering STEM fields for many years, but it’s worth the fight. Setting the stage now will inspire future generations to see that they too can be a data scientist. (Quoted from Tanja Rueckert’s article Numbers don’t lie: Why women must fill the data science demand)
Rueckert cites three “stereotypically female traits” that make for a successful data scientist: communication, collaboration and perspective. Female data scientists are entering a man’s world…for now. In coaching seasoned female executives or a recent MBA’s entering the workforce, women struggle to find their voice and develop greater confidence and gravitas.
Developing a performance of gravitas means an awareness of intonation when they speak. I listen to how a young woman’s voice rises at the end of their sentences. We play with creative imitation and use other tools of the theatre to transform how they communicate. We can learn to perform both who we are and who we are becoming. A recent female MBA graduate shared how an interviewer asked her how should could successfully manage projects, given how “nice” she is. Was she “aggressive enough” for the role? Female executives might be great at collaboration but they still have to “show teeth if needed,” as one of my coaching clients recently put it.
While stereotypes can hold us back, they don’t have to. They can be a source of creativity for developing new performances. My guess is that the more play and improvisational performance is brought into STE(A)M education and the workplace, the more women (and men) will develop and create new ways of performing as data scientists.
Find out more about FUNctional Collaborative Communication trainings for data scientists https://careerplayinc.com/functional-collaborative-communication/