Women in Data Science Conference

Students sharing their experiences in participating in the Women in Data Science Conference at Stanford.

“The shared enthusiasm all began when one of my friends, Lan Vy ’22 found out about this amazing opportunity,” recalls Hue Anh’22, who is an aspiring data analyst. “I was somewhat into the Data Science field but always felt left out. Concerned about my future of breaking into male-dominated fields, I was always insecure about my capabilities in this field.” Due to this, without a second thought, she said “yes!”

Lan Vy found out about the Women in Data Conference Stanford back in November last year. WiDs’s objectives of educating and inspiring data scientists worldwide, regardless of gender barriers and support women in this field gravitated her interest towards attending the conference. “Since Kathryn Linton’ 22 attended this conference last year with positive experience and because the funding board has funded this trip before, we decided it would be a great idea to go in person”, shares Vy. So, Vy reached out to the faculties in the Economics department, gathering students interested in Data Science just as much as her, and drafted the budget plan to attend this conference.

There were discussions about various topics such as human centered AI to health care to human rights, and beyond. “My most favorite talk was the Fireside chat with Susan Wojcicki (CEO of YouTube) and Diane Tang (Google Fellow). They gave us an insight into the challenges and responsibilities when working in the field. They are the leaders of the top companies, and they are humble and have the drive to continue learning.”

For River, the panel on data science in healthcare made a lasting impression. “I loved the discussions between Sylvia K. Plevritis (Chair of Biomedical Data Science at Stanford University), Tanveer Syeda-Mahmood (IBM Fellow) and Jinoos Yazdany (Chief of Rheumatology, Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital),” shares River. “I found the panel so interesting that at one point I even considered changing my major to biochemistry.”

Through this experience, Vy was able to recollect her conversation with Nadia Fawaz, the Senior Staff Applied Research Scientist and the Tech Lead for Inclusive AI at Pinterest to be memorable. “Her work redefines our approach to content diversity that is multi-disciplinary and not just technical. By developing inclusive search and recommendation engines, her team helps users feel represented in using Pinterest products by featuring skin tone ranges and hair patterns in the search. She was intentional about including experts in different hairstyles and skincare. She shared the struggles and challenges that her team had to overcome in order to solve the problem of skin color and hair detection algorithms. She literally had to fight her way through to make this Inclusive AI Initiative in content search possible. Nadia was the first person in her company to bring it up and initiate the project, which has now basically become a very important part of Pinterest. Now, as users search for general terms such as “beauty” and “fashion” on Pinterest, search results have become more inclusive of gender, ethnicity, and skin color- which is an exciting step towards inclusive representation in media.

About the biggest takeaway from the conference, the participants felt that the conference did live up to their experiences of empowering and educating data scientists in progress. Women and those of color are susceptible to imposter syndrome, especially if they look forward to working in the field where intellectual brilliance is the prerequisite. “WiDS did a great job by bridging the gaps in our knowledge and the problems we are having”, says River.

The emphasis of Jinoos Yazdandy on the importance of having “sponsors” struck a new perspective to Vy as well, especially the concept of “sponsors.” “Sponsors” are someone who has nothing to gain from you but is willing to put your name forward in any recommendations for good opportunities that come their way. This concept connected to Vy on a personal level given how she has always found Beloit’s professors and mentors to be her advocates and given her the best of recommendations and attestations in any opportunity that comes their way. Vy believes this has been highly crucial in her academic and professional journey.

This conference has been a great opportunity for these students to learn and challenge themselves intellectually.

By: Ojaswi Dhakal'25, Dung Pham'22
May 05, 2022

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