Educational Forum: “Women in Data Science (WiDS)”

Author: Lori McNeill/Laura Christman

The Women’s Fund of the Shasta Regional Community Foundation is proud to have teamed up with the Society of Women Engineers to bring the Women in Data Science (WiDS) Conference to downtown Redding on March 5. WiDS Redding was a satellite event of Stanford University’s Global Women in Data Science Conference. WiDS Stanford included 17 women speakers and roughly 100,000 people listening on live-stream or Facebook Live. WiDS Redding was one of more than 170 regional events in more than 50 countries with their own panels of women speakers.

The WiDS Redding event included the live-stream of amazing talks from the main stage at WiDS Stanford, as well as an in-person panel featuring local experts. Attendees had the opportunity to watch talks from women data scientists and technologists in leadership roles at tech giants such as Google, Airbnb, Uber and Facebook. As an official WiDS event, the group in Redding was able participate remotely in Q&A following the talks via a direct channel for submitting questions.

A highlight was the panel discussion with experts in the North State. We had the privilege of hearing from five women with expertise ranging from blockchain technology, to data science and agricultural analytics. The impressive list of panelists included Shasta County native Brandy Camacho, who leads Blockchain Initiatives at Udacity. Others on the panel were Gloria Kimbwala and Jackie Munson.

Gloria was Square’s University Tech Evangelist. She was recently named one of the Top Ten Women in Fintech by Fintech Ranking. Her non-traditional path into technology includes a bachelor’s degree in environmental studies and a master’s degree in computer science. Jackie is a data analyst at Valley Agricultural Software. Jackie started her career as an embryologist for beef and dairy cattle. She recognized the importance of data and the impact it makes in daily business decisions and shifted her focus to being a data analyst. Kate Crosby was another ag-related professional on the panel. Kate is a data scientist in the Emerging Leaders in Science program at the Monsanto Company. When she received the invitation to speak at WiDS Redding, she felt it was so important to promote data science careers to North State residents that she passed on the opportunity to attend the Stanford event! Rounding out our panel with representation form academia, were Chico State University Mathematics and Statistics Department faculty member Robin Donatello. Robin is working on developing a data Science/data analytics curriculum program at Chico State — an interdepartmental venture to provide the students and faculty with skills needed to manage and process Big Data.

Participants learned about the panelists’ career paths and current professional focus, as well as their take on data science vs. statistics or other data analysis-focused professions. The lively discussion covered issues affecting most people, including responsible corporate data usage, privacy and business opportunities. The conversation turned to Redding in particular as the panel touched on opportunities for civic engagement via Redding’s new open data sets published on the city’s website.

Many thanks to the Shasta County Arts Council for supporting the event, and to Girls Inc. of the Northern Sacramento Valley for keeping the group caffeinated!

If you missed the live stream, check out the videos below.

A selection of photos from the event: