WiDS Conference - Reflection

Date of Publish: 3 September 2019


Last week, WiT@SG together with SAP, SUTD and SCS ran the first WiDS (Women in Data Science) conference in Singapore, a series of conferences which is run in 150 locations around the world. We were proud to feature an all female speakers conference, aimed at inspiring entries to Data Science worldwide, regardless of gender.

We had close to 200, mainly students turning up for the event. And the amazing speakers were not just inspiring, they showed themselves as great role models for the students through the passion and values they demonstrated.

So why do we need more Women in Data Science?

This is much more than just having more women in technology, as Professor Sun Sun Lim mentioned in her impactful opening speech, as data science becomes a core driver of the systems and algorithms for decision making, from the price of insurance we pay, to the amount of family support people receive, it is important that these algorithms do not exacerbate distortions and inequalities in the data on which they are based.

The ability to be empathetic and a strong sense of responsibility to the community are fundamental attributes to appreciating how algorithms, while eminently efficient, need to be refined in the face of feedback, and for motivating data science to be deployed in the wider public interest and not purely for commercial gain.

Data Science for The Public Good

Many of our speakers illustrated how Data Science is being used in the private and public sectors, both Kathleen Muller of SAP, and Sam Pearlson of Nugit showed us storytelling with data, and our team of Professors at SUTD led some fascinating discovery discussions. I was particularly inspired by Dr. Alvina Goh of Govtech, showing how the government is using data for the good of the community. Such as the use of predictive analytics to determine when old people may need help, or what is important to the nation from words left on LKYs condolences. It is heartwarming to see the passion to do good amongst this data boom.

Room for innovation

Our team from Citibank did me proud, instead of simply talking about the use of data in the banking industry, they came up with some case studies to generate ideas from the students, this was very well received. It encouraged out of the box thinking and a lot of discussions amongst the students.

SheLovesData

Last but not the least, our speakers who shared very personal stories of their own journeys and struggles. It was most uplifting to see this genuine desire and energy for making a difference. Anna Hoetanto of New Savvy, Nunul Hussain of The Codette Project, and Jana Marle-Zizkova's awesome Data Tribe. What a privilege to have spent a day with these phenomenal ladies. I personally learnt so much at the event, and when I saw the crowds of people around the speakers after each session, I knew the effort was all worthwhile. A sincere thank you to everyone who made this possible. The engaging audience, the passionate speakers AND the awesome organising committee. THANK YOU.

This article was first published on Meggy's LinkedIn profile here, on 16th April 2018. Information is correct at the time of publication.