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Tech sector must treat COVID-19 as an opportunity to re-evaluate its approach to talent sourcing

Hackathon exclusively for women aims to drive awareness and encourage women to seek careers in data

The technology sector lags behind when it comes to diversity in the workforce. Not only is this detrimental to women, who are missing out on the rewarding work available to them, but also to the industry itself. To address this, TrueCue, in partnership with Women in Data and Alteryx, ran a data analytics hackathon aimed exclusively for women, challenging teams to analyse datasets related to COVID-19.

The event was attended by over 300 participants from 41 countries. This comprised of a mix of students, women returning to work, swapping industries, as well as those in the early stages of careers in data. Attendees were also joined by 40 facilitators, who collectively boasted over 200 years’ experience working in the field of data, from organisations including Google, Balfour, Virgin Media, Lego and the NHS.

Participants were separated into 40 teams, supported by a facilitator, with the task to analyse a global COVID-19 data set and craft research questions around COVID-19. This related to areas including effects of COVID-19 on those most impacted countries, using economic trade patterns to model the spread of a pandemic, analysing current policies to determine where the next hotspots will be, and also the effectiveness of restrictions put into place across communities.

Teams were given two weeks to research and analyse data sets, with each team then tasked to submit a short presentation, showcasing their findings and recommendations. Not only did the hackathon provide an opportunity for members of the data analytics community to connect and address challenges stemming from the pandemic but, it also highlighted the importance of promoting diversity and inclusion in the data industry.

Discussing this further, Bingqian Gao, Data Science Lead at TrueCue, said “Organisations must capitalise on the opportunity created by the pandemic to review their approach to talent sourcing. With candidates no longer bound by location, the focus should be on promoting greater diversity. That has been the aim of this event.”

Bingqian continues, “We want to show women that like-minded individuals are out there. The hackathon was not only designed as a platform for practical learning, but also an opportunity to listen to leading role models in data. It was exciting to see participants dive into the challenge and work together to demonstrate their soft and technical skills. We hope this experience will have a continued positive effect and encourage more people to consider a career in data.”

Rachel Keane, recruitment consultant and co-founder of Women in Data, partner to the hackathon, also commented: “What’s been most encouraging is the demand from attendee’s wanting to be involved in the event. Not only is this an opportunity for participants to showcase their skills and expertise, but also their passion for data science.”

Discussing, further Keane says, “Candidates should always be hired based on their skillsets and drive rather than their gender or backgrounds. In an industry like data science – which is all about new ways of thinking and problem solving – the synergies of this are so obvious. A differing perspective adds to the collective intelligence and cultural background of a research group, providing an incentive for data organisations to bridge the gender gap. It’s key businesses within the tech sector take extra steps to hire and retain women who can learn and grow throughout their role.”

After the presentations, five teams were chosen to present their ideas to a select panel of experts. These experts included, Libby Duane Adams, Chief Customer Officer & Co-Founder of Alteryx, Freya Holland, EMEA & International HQ Analytics Lead at Kraft Heniz, Nicole Johnson, Senior Consultant at T-Mobile, Jen Stirrup, CEO and Founder of Data Relish and James Don-Carolis, Managing Director of TrueCue. Three were then chosen as winners.

GoogleGals were named overall winners, following their use of data to look into the factors affecting responses to the virus in different countries. Team MACS were named Most Creative Presentation, following its use of global governance data and a COVID-19 response tracker to compare pandemic responses in areas with female versus male leaders. And Most Impactful Storytelling, was awarded to Fishing Consultancy, which analysed different regional responses to the pandemic, depicting their findings to the judges, a news report.