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5 Takeaways From Our Inaugural Women in Data Science Summit 5 Takeaways From Our Inaugural Women in Data Science Summit

The all-virtual Women in Data Science Summit drew more than 800 participants, including colleagues from Johnson & Johnson along with leaders from Amazon, Google, IBM and more. After two days of deeply meaningful dialogue about inclusion in STEM, what did we find out?

1. Grassroots Support Drives Action

What was the impetus for the inaugural Women in Data Science Summit? A groundswell of organic energy, according to Katie Bettencourt, Ph.D., Senior Data Scientist, Janssen R&D Data Science, and Shelina Ramnarine, Manager, Janssen Business Development.

“This event grew out of a really grassroots place,” Katie said. “It came out of noticing that, while women are well represented in Data Science at Johnson & Johnson, we don't necessarily have a lot of visibility as a community, and we’ve probably shared similar experiences as women in STEM. So we wanted to come together, highlight the amazing work women are doing here, connect and start a dialogue.”

And when leadership caught wind of the idea? “They were over-the-moon enthusiastic," Katie recalled.

Najat Khan, Ph.D., Chief Data Science Officer, Janssen R&D and co-chair of the Johnson & Johnson Data Science Council (JJDSC), pointed out that the structure of the event itself reflected that bottom-up support, too.

“We asked our data scientists and data science practitioners to come up with the agenda for the event,” Najat said. “We wanted to know, 'What would you like to talk about? What would be truly meaningful for you that usually isn't discussed?' As opposed to: 'Here's the panel. Sit down and listen.'"

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You have to be unafraid to tackle some of the most difficult problems of our time, using data science to reimagine how we discover and develop medicines for patients. And that means not only solving problems differently, but seeing and developing leaders and talented individuals who might not look like your traditional data scientist.

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2. It's Time to Ask Tough Questions

The focus on day one of our Women in Data Science Summit was career pathways. For attendees, that meant getting tactical while addressing tough questions like:

  • How should you talk to your manager about promotions or salary?
  • What's the right course of action when you feel like you aren’t getting the recognition you deserve?
  • Why are women sometimes reluctant to speak up in a room full of men (or “a Zoom full of men,” as Geetanjali Gamel, Senior Director of Workforce Analytics, quipped)?

There probably aren’t one-size-fits-all answers to these questions, but Katie observed that was partly the point. “The goal was just to dive into these really difficult conversations," she said.
To that end, day-one attendees later broke into "mentoring circles”—small groups of about 10 people each, men and women alike, where they could talk about their experiences, identify parallels and share insights and advice.

How did Katie and her colleagues assign attendees to groups? By deploying a data science algorithm, of course.

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Sometimes people say, ‘Well, you know, there just aren’t that many women coming up in the pipeline right now.’ But that kind of thinking is just not acceptable at this point in time. In our group, depending on where we are in hiring, anywhere between 40% and 60% of data scientists are women.

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3. Diverse Perspectives Fuel Breakthrough Insights

Day two of the summit included an all-star lineup of internal and external panelists: not only leaders in data science from Johnson & Johnson, but Google, Amazon, IBM and elsewhere, all of them women.

And that mix of perspectives was very much by design, as Katie explained.

“By bringing in these diverse external points of view, we were able to look at the experiences of women in data science more holistically, from multiple angles. What's it like to be a woman in data science at a tech company, for example, versus a pharmaceutical company or a medical devices company? We really wanted everyone to be able to see a little bit of themselves in order to help them find their own paths forward.”

Katie added, “It’s really valuable for women to hear other female leaders talk about how they successfully navigated similar challenges in their careers.”

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I told my manager that I wanted to be Director of Analytics, and my manager said, ‘But there’s no such position as “Director of Analytics” within our organization!’ I said, ‘Well, then we can create one.’

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4. "Man-bassadors" Matter in Data Science

In practical terms, what can men do to help create more inclusive environments for women in STEM? How can they be, as Katie calls them, “man-bassadors”?

For managers, Najat offered this advice: “When your team sees that you're developing people and promoting them based on talent and merit, regardless of gender or any form of diversity, that can go a long way—and you’ll start to see a real effect.”

Piyush Mathur, Head of Enterprise Functions, Talent Management and Insights, also shared some practical guidance.

"I’ve been on conference calls in which women teammates have not made any comment,” Piyush reflected. “When that happens, as a best practice before you finish the call or move on to the next topic, you should go to them and say, 'What is your point of view? We'd love to hear what you think.' Making the workplace a more inclusive can be a simple thing to do, but we too often miss the opportunity."

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Throw out your assumptions. This is about asking questions, listening carefully, then taking action. We have to go all the way.

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5. Join Our Inclusive Community of Data Scientists

At Johnson & Johnson, we’re not only committed to having challenging conversations around inclusion, equality and representation, we’re making meaningful changes as well.

As Najat put it, "It's about living into diversity, not just talking about it. For example, if my recruiters come back to me without a diverse candidate pool, I'll tell them, 'No. Go back. Don't tell me these people don't exist. You're just not looking hard enough.'"

So if you’re ready to join our inclusive community of data scientists, be sure to check out all of the roles we’re hiring for at Janssen R&D, as well as all of the available positions at Johnson & Johnson today. Plus, you should sign up for our Global Talent Hub, too. It’s a great way to stay in touch and get updates about jobs that might interest you in the future.

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