Women need more female role models in the sciences

Published on : 12/13/19
  • As a woman and a data scientist, I’m proud to work for a company that takes a strong stance on diversity and inclusion. By: Elena Bukina, Data Project Manager at Sodexo

    Elena Bukina, Cheffe de projet Data chez Sodexo.I’m a mathematician. I have a PhD in Applied Mathematics from the University of Nice-Sophia Antipolis. I started my career as a researcher and moved into business analytics for a consulting agency 6 years ago.

    But, I always knew I wanted to move closer to the business side of things. I wanted to be able to follow my data projects from beginning to end and see the long-term impacts of my work. So, I enrolled in a training program for women in business. This is where I first heard about Sodexo.

    Gender balance was one of the topics we covered in this program, and Sodexo was held up as an example of a company that takes diversity and inclusion seriously. As a woman working in a male-dominated industry, Sodexo’s values on this point really spoke to me. This was one of my main motivations to come to work for Sodexo. Plus, I really love food!

    “Working at Sodexo, you really see the commitment to diversity and inclusion.”

    I joined Sodexo as a Data Project Manager a year and a half ago. Working here, you really see the commitment to diversity and inclusion. Today I work with data engineers and technical experts, both men and women, from 15 different countries. We all come from different cultural backgrounds and I really believe that our diversity is one of the reasons we work so efficiently together.

    One of my favorite projects so far has involved working with marketing teams in the US to analyze consumer habits at university campuses. Our work has helped local teams better understand the needs of their consumers so that they can meet these needs in different ways and at different times of the day. It’s been really exciting to start seeing results: happier consumers and bigger revenues for our clients!

    It’s really satisfying to see when your algorithm works. That’s what I’ve always loved about mathematics and data science. The value of your work isn’t subjective like it can be in other fields. It either gives a result or it doesn’t. So, in a way, it can be easier for women to compete in the sciences. Data especially has great gender balance potential. It’s a relatively new field, so there aren’t the same gender norms that you see in some of the other hard sciences. There’s a great opportunity for women to make their mark!

    “Women working in sciences can be powerful role models to other women.”

    I think all companies have it in their best interest to support diversity and gender balance. Studies show there will be a tech skill shortage, and since there are currently more women than men enrolled in university, companies need to make women feel valued if they’re going to compete for new recruits.

    But, the talent funnel begins long before that - women also need to feel more encouraged to study in the hard sciences. Math was the only subject I really excelled in at school. So, in a way, I was lucky. I decided what I wanted to study in university without hesitation. But when girls are strong in several school subjects they sometimes feel an expectation to follow one path over another.

    The bottom line? Women need more female role models in the sciences.

    When we’re better represented in popular culture, as well as in the lab and in the boardroom, we’ll start to see real gender balance progress. I, for one, will be delighted to mentor and act as a role model to women starting-out their careers in data science.

    For all women in sciences, this is our responsibility.

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