In the 21st-century global economy, the future is bright in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. Unfortunately, the gender gap that persists in STEM education and employment means that fewer women than men benefit from the strength of this economic sector.
Many organizations are taking steps to address this gender gap by providing educational opportunities, scholarships, and mentorship for girls and women at all stages of STEM education and employment. One of these entities is Women in Data Science (WiDS). Here is what you need to know about the history of the organization and its annual conference:
History of WiDS
Women in Data Science got its start in 2015 at Stanford University with a one-day conference. The event focused on showcasing innovations in data science; highlighting emerging data science companies; seeking ways to support women in data science; and connecting women in data science with potential mentors, collaborators, and funders.
Speakers at the first conference represented such leading companies as Intel, Microsoft, Google, Walmart, Salesforce, and Netflix. Additionally, representatives from Stanford University, University of California Santa Cruz, University of Southern California, and University of California Berkeley were highlighted.
Since the inaugural conference, WiDS has become a worldwide event with participants across the globe. The first global WiDS events took place in 2017 when 73 regional locations hosted events in addition to the conference at Stanford University.
Within the United States, events were held in 25 cities, including Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis, New York, San Antonio, San Diego, San Francisco, and Seattle, while globally, 30 countries hosted events. By 2018, the conference had grown to include more than 100 events, including 44 events across 40 cities in the United States in addition to the event at Stanford University. Globally, the 2018 conference included 72 events in 45 other countries.
The 2019 WiDS Conference
The 2019 WiDS conference was the largest organized event yet. The event at Stanford University was held on March 4. It featured speakers from such leading companies as NVIDIA, BrightHive, Google, Coursera, and Stitch Fix. Representatives from Stanford University, Iowa State University, Harvard University, University of Toronto, Cornell University, and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory also spoke.
In addition, over 150 events have been scheduled at regional locations worldwide. In the United States, events have been scheduled in 41 cities, while events have also been scheduled in 44 other countries. More than 200 people around the globe have organized these events for participants to enjoy close to home.
Interested Parties Can Attend Via Videoconference and Livestream
Those unable to attend either the annual WiDS conference at Stanford University or one of the events held at regional locations can still participate in WiDS through videos. For 2019, a livestream of the entire conference at Stanford is available online on the WiDS website.
In fact, many of the regional events consist of watching this livestream together in a particular location. After the annual conference is concluded, edited videos of each session at the Stanford conference are made available online.
Some of the topics covered in the 2019 videos include effectively using data in fields other than art and science, using data to improve health, and structuring algorithms. Additionally, information on understanding limits to AI, evaluating criminal evidence with machine learning, and building trust can be found in the collection of 2019 videos. Other topics covered in the 2019 videos are applying machine learning to optics, learning through reinforcement, and filling in missing data.
Along with the livestream and edited videos, Facebook Live videos are also available. Some of the videos from the 2019 conference include the opening remarks, the opening address, the keynote addresses, and an overview of the entire event. Videos from many of the individual sessions at the conference are also available. Furthermore, videos from the 2018 and 2017 conferences are also posted.
WiDS Also Produces Podcasts
Along with videos, podcasts are another way for those unable to attend in person can participate in the organization’s activities. The WiDS podcasts can be found on both Apple Podcasts and Google Play. In these podcasts, women involved in data science in a variety of professions speak about their experiences.
Speakers have represented such corporations as Microsoft, Netflix, Walmart, and Airbnb, and speakers from Stanford University and Virginia Tech have also been featured. Topics these women have discussed include highlights from their careers, advice for other women in data science, and lessons they have learned.
The Annual WiDS Datathon
One more way for those who cannot attend WiDS in person can participate is through its annual datathon. The datathon is open to both individuals and groups of up to four people, at least half of whom must identify as female. Contestants are provided with a set of data and given a limited amount of time to apply that data to solving a problem.
The 2019 datathon occurred from January 29 through February 27. It involved using satellite imagery and machine learning algorithms to detect oil palm plantations. Prizes awarded to members of winning teams included Kindles, Xboxes, and Visa gift cards.