Skip to content
Heart icon (animated) heart icon (static)
Explore more Johnson & Johnson sites:

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. Bottom-Up Enthusiasm

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 is usually never discussed?' as opposed to, 'Here's the panel, sit down and listen.'"

Quote icon (top)

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 being able to see and develop leaders and talented individuals who might not look like your traditional data scientist.

Quote icon (bottom) Share

2. Top-Down Support

Day one kicked off with strong messages of support from executive sponsors Jim Swanson, Executive Vice President, Chief Information Officer, and Mathai Mammen, Executive Vice President, Pharmaceuticals, R&D.

Jim set the stage with his opening remarks: "Mathai and I are very passionate about how we scale the data science capability for the whole company to leverage. Diversity is a key aspect of improving effectiveness, and I feel proud to be at a company that realizes that. We’re on a journey together in support of the mission at Johnson & Johnson."

As Mathai pointed out as well, inclusion and representation are key parts of that mission. “We continue to suffer from examples where your gender or your language or your mannerisms can get in the way of the impact that you’re capable of,” Mathai explained. “It’s important that we look past these superficial things in order to bring the best people forward as their best selves and together make a difference for the health of humanity.”

In fact, Mathai sees a parallel between our data science capabilities and inclusivity itself: “Data science in general is a new culture and a new way of thinking, and as we build it, we better get this right.”

Quote icon (top)

Najat and her incredibly talented, incredibly diverse team are doing a phenomenal job. Data science is more than a new way of discovering a drug or a treatment option. It’s a new way of thinking.

Quote icon (bottom) Share

3. Really Tough Questions

The focus on day one: career pathways. For attendees, that meant getting tactical and addressing tough questions like:

  • How should you talk to your manager about promotions?
  • How should you approach your manager about salary?
  • How and when should you speak up if you aren’t getting the recognition you deserve?
  • Why are women sometimes hesitant to speak up in a room full of men (or as Geetanjali Gamel, Senior Director of Workforce Analytics, quipped, “in a Zoom full of men”)?

There aren’t easy answers to any of these questions, of course, but Katie said that was part of the point. “The goal was to dive into really difficult conversations."

To that end, day one attendees subsequently broke into "mentoring circles”—small groups of about 10 people each, men and women alike—to share their experiences on a deeper level, get advice and connect with colleagues from across the company. Naturally, Katie and her colleagues deployed a data science algorithm to assign attendees to groups.

Quote icon (top)

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.

Quote icon (bottom) Share

4. Diverse Perspectives, Holistic Experiences

Day two of the summit included an all-star lineup of internal and external panelists: leaders in data science not only from Johnson & Johnson, but also 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 in a tech company right now? How is that different from being in a pharmaceutical company or a medical devices company? We really wanted everyone to be able to see a little bit of themselves to help them find their own path forward.”

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

Quote icon (top)

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.’

Quote icon (bottom) Share

5. "Man-bassadors" 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 more inclusive is often a simple thing to do, and yet we often miss the opportunity."

Quote icon (top)

Don’t assume anything. It’s about asking questions, listening carefully—and then taking action. We have to go all the way.

Quote icon (bottom) Share

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.

Back to top