Women in Data Science Conference: Global Inspiration

February 26, 2019

As the annual Global Women in Data Science (WiDS) Conference approaches, we caught up with Meredith Lee, one of the event speakers and the Executive Director of the West Big Data Innovation Hub. UC Berkeley, along with a range of institutions around the world, has become increasingly involved with the conference, which began at Stanford University in 2015 to inspire and educate data scientists worldwide, regardless of gender, and to support women in the field. In addition to a full day of events on March 4, WiDS includes a datathon that concludes tomorrow.

Read on to find out more about WiDS and how to get involved, including a livestream of the WiDS Conference at Berkeley’s I-School.

Q: How and why did WiDS get started?

A: The WiDS organizers noticed many all-male panels and speakers at data science conferences, and wanted to flip thatto feature all female-identifying speakers.

WiDS began in Fall 2015 as a local conference at Stanford. The initial effort reached a few hundred people in-person, but more than 6,000 people tuned in to the livestream. Building upon this momentum, WiDS has expanded to include a network of enthusiastic WiDS Ambassadors hosting exciting workshops, activities, and community networking opportunities.

WiDS now includes a global conference, with 150+ regional events worldwide in more than 50 countries; a datathon, encouraging participants to form teams and strengthen their data science skills; and a podcast, featuring leaders in the field talking about their work and their journeys.

Q: Can you tell me more about the Datathon?

A: This year’s Datathon is focused on using satellite data to better understand  deforestation connected with oil palm plantations. Although the average human consumes 17 pounds of palm oil each year, many people have not looked into oil palm plantation growth and its economic or environmental impacts. The West Big Data Innovation Hub leadership team was really excited to help spark conversations and support data science collaboration around this topic. The Datathon has connected participants worldwide with a shared challenge and support from a growing community of partners.

Q: What is happening at Berkeley in connection with WiDS?

A: On February 2, the WiDS Datathon Committee, UC Berkeley Division of Data Sciences, and the West Big Data Innovation Hub hosted a Datathon Collaboration Day to bring together teams, provide mentoring, and launch datathon projects. And on March 4, Berkeley’s School of Information will livestream the conference and will host a panel discussion and several talks. The livestream is part of Data & Tech for All, a weeklong series events across campus focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion in data science and tech.


More information about the Datathon, Podcast, and Global Conference is available on the WiDS website.