Last month, a new meetup group for women data scientists in the DC area was started by Mandi Traud and Jackie Kazil.
Women Data Scientists DC is a meetup group for women data scientists, women who want to be data scientists, and supporters of women in data science. Their monthly meetings will include presentations by data scientists, networking events, mentoring opportunities, and workshops to learn new data science skills.
Co-founders Jackie Kazil and Mandi Traud launched on July 9th with two members, and by the next day, the group had more than 85 members and growing!
Here's what the co-founders said individually when asked about how and why they decided to start this group.
Women Data Scientists DC started simply with me being lonely. I was the only female data scientist on the team (about 40 data scientists and developers) I am contracted to by L-3 Data Tactics, and Rich Heimann (Chief Data Scientist at L-3 Data Tactics) took the Data Scientists from that team from L-3 to lunch and asked if there was anything he could do or grievances we wanted to air. I asked if he could hire more female data scientists for the team. Rich said he would love to, but was having trouble finding them. Being a female data scientist, I was a bit cynical. I have a bit of a Little Red Hen complex, (if you want something done right you have to do it yourself), but after some searching I was hard pressed to find women data scientists in the DC area. There were Meetup groups for San Francisco and New York, but no group for women data scientists in DC. I then went back to Rich and asked L-3 Data Tactics to sponsor my Meetup group, Women Data Scientists DC. Rich said they would be happy to and mentioned meeting Jackie Kazil who might be interested in co-founding. Jackie had also been thinking about putting together a Women in Data Science group, so we quickly became friends and co-founders. It is so great to have co-founder as passionate about this as I am.
For me, the idea of Women Data Scientists DC started when I would get together with other data science women at conferences I would leave the conversation and always say to myself, “Why doesn’t that interaction happen on a regular basis?” It felt like there wasn’t a continuous space to empower, encourage, and highlight the awesome work that women were doing in the data science field -- a place that feels “safe”. As the founder of PyLadies DC, what I wanted --- Pyladies:Python as ???:Data Science. I didn’t want to take the endeavor on my own, because running a Meetup can be a lot of work and sometimes life happens. I found folks that were interested in attending, but not at a place to take it on as a co-founder. Then Rich introduce me to Mandi. Mandi had the passion that I was looking for in a co-founder. We stood up the group working remotely with each other before we even met! It was amazing! I am so excited to be working with her. She is awesome.
When asked about the importance of women in data science and how this group contributes to that, they said...
Women are still a huge minority in the science and tech fields. In data science alone, women make up about 12% of the field. Is this because women don't have a support system, women to encourage them and learn from, or female role models in data science? We can't be sure, but we hope to fill that void for ourselves and others (in the DC area at least) with this group. We are already 200 strong and growing! We will have networking meetings, workshops, mentoring opportunities, and highly successful women in data science speaking.