Women in Big Data


NCWIT was fortunate this week to have a seat in the audience at the first Big Boulder conference, hosted by local startup Gnip, which brought together some of the best minds in the business to discuss trends and ideas in big data. Several NCWIT Alliance companies -- including Gnip, Get SatisfactionTechStars, and Facebook -- have a foot in this pond, so it's helpful to understand more about their focus and their needs. 

What to do with "big data" is a big deal. Listening in at Big Boulder, there was the sense that the conversations taking place could affect many of us in fundamental ways. Big data has enormous potential to solve some of the world's most intractable problems, improve experiences, share information, and dream up new services. Big data has implications for sectors like healthcare, transportation, telecommunications, financial markets, and global responses to political changes or natural disasters. Big data intersects with retail, law, social media, government, finance, geo-spatial, privacy, PR, entertainment, and a host of other disciplines that use rivers of information to enhance what they do. 

The potential of big data to do big things is just one reason why it's important that women participate in this field. Here are two more: big data jobs are plentiful, and they pay well. Another reason? Women are majority or near-majority users of many of the social data "firehoses" (Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, etc.), and big data has much to gain from having women behind the scenes to parse, massage, store, tag, categorize, and sell the 50+ percent of data that comes from women users. Suffice to say, big data is just one of the great computing/IT careers NCWIT is encouraging more young women to consider.

The number of women at Big Boulder seemed well above the norm for a technical conference; Gnip had reached out to women in the field, and the women who spoke at the conference (Wendy LeaSusan EtlingerRumi ChunaraNicole GlarosKatie Baucom, and Yael Garten) provided smart, diverse, and insightful perspectives. We thought of a few more women doing interesting things with big data; whom would you add to this list?

1.     Hilary Mason, chief scientist at bit.ly [data science]

2.     Gina Trapani, co-founder of ThinkUp [social media insights]

3.     Ory Okolloh, co-founder of Ushahidi [crowdmapping]

4.     Margit Zwemer, data scientist/community manager at Kaggle [data mining]

5.     Jen Pahlka, founder, Code for America [data + government]

6.     Amber Naslund, consultant, formerly of Radian6 [social media strategy]

7.     Jennifer Granick, director, Center for Internet + Society, Stanford [privacy law]

8.     Danah Boyd, MIT [social media ethnographer]

9.     Amanda Michel, director of distributed reporting, ProPublica [crowsourced journalism]