Women in Big Data Panel at DataWorks Summit 2019

Women in Big Data Panel at DataWorks Summit 2019

Last month, I moderated The Women in Big Data panel hosted by DataWorks Summit and sponsored by Women in Big Data. This was a well-attended event with five amazing guest speakers – Hilary Mason, Tina Rosario, Violeta Ciurel, Ana Gillan and Devon Edwards Joseph.

The theme for the discussion was “Top technology trends women and men business leaders need to be aware of”. I’ve captured some of the highlights below and you can access the recording here:

The superpower of diversity

The conversation began by speakers telling their background stories and how they became involved in technology and big data. It is interesting to note that most did not follow a traditional route into technology. Devon studied anthropology, Violeta and Hilary started their career in academia, and Ana studied French and German. The theme that I’ve heard emerge is that big data and data science are domains in which most of us were never trained in school. Hilary said that this bringing the full spectrum of backgrounds and experiences is a superpower of diversity that makes teams stronger.

Learning and practicing “superpowers”

I asked the panelists to identify expertise that one might find useful in our field and Hilary described it as having and practicing “superpowers,” to learn quickly, be curious, and communicate clearly. Tina and Ana added that modern organizations are thriving to become data-driven, where data becomes a part of everyone’s job. Being able to translate complex data ideas into business value and outcomes is a crucial skill to have today.


The panelists were in-sync that we need to stop obsessing about the term “Artificial Intelligence,” and instead focus on providing companies and people with information to make better decisions. Ana spoke about the democratization of data which means that everybody – organizations and consumers, has access to data and use data to make decisions with no barriers to access or understanding.

Data literacy and data ethics

Data ethics and ethical responsibilities of the data community was another theme that emerged. Hilary noted that empowering the data community to have an impact on cyberbullying and data misuse will likely need to come out of the regulatory and legal framework which holds companies liable for the abuse that women and others suffer on their platforms.

Read Hilary’s book on this topic: Ethics and Data Science

Women in Big Data

Call to action

Panelists shared some examples of how to promote and embrace diversity and get involved. There is plenty of research proving that diverse groups get better results than a homogeneous team.  Violeta spoke about the importance of metrics and KPIs. She also shared that Norway was the first country in the world to enforce listed companies to have at least 40% of their director seats for women. Hilary noted that encouraging diversity is important but creating an inclusive workplace is equally important to retain diverse talent.

It was a great conversation that ended too soon. The speakers drew us into their worlds by sharing their personal stories, experiences, and challenges. I immediately felt humbled and honored and was beyond impressed with their clarity of thought and openness. To those who couldn’t attend, my advice would be to make time and attend our next Women in Big Data luncheon and panel at the upcoming DataWorks Summit in Washington DC on Wednesday, May 22nd. I promise you won’t regret it.

I am super excited to announce our DC panel:

  • Karen Lynne-Daniels Ivy, Ph.D., is the Associate Dean – Innovation & Enterprise, Forbes School of Business & Technology at Ashford University.
  • Alice Albrecht is a Manager, Data Science Strategy and Advising at Cloudera Fast Forward Labs.
  • Barbara Eckman is a Senior Principal Software Architect at Comcast.
  • Anupama Mohankumar is a Lead Data Engineer, healthcare innovator and technology enthusiast at Aetna.
  • David J. Ramos is a Senior Director of Engineering in Digital Transformation at CVS Health

If you are interested in participating, speaking at a future event or have suggestions for a moderator to ask this group, please let us know.

Oksana Walton
Director of Product Marketing
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