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WiDS Posts | December 9, 2019

WiDS Enthusiasm in Japan!

Meeting between Associate Professor Yoko Ono of Yokohama City University and WiDS
I participated in the Yokohama City University Summer Open Campus in August 2018, and Professor Manabu Iwasaki: Dean of the Faculty of Data Science at YCU introduced me to Yoko. He had told me previously that, “one of our female associate professors wants to hold a conference for female data scientists”. Yoko then told me about WiDS and I really sympathized.

Yoko is the only female associate professor in the Faculty of Data Science at YCU. And I am a female entrepreneur using data science. We have much in common, yet there are definitely few of us that are members of the Skill Definition Committee within the Japan Data Science Society. So we hit it off from the start and decided to proceed with the WiDS Tokyo@YCU project.

Women, data science and careers
Two years had passed since I started my own company when I began to sense that “there are many consultations from women recently”. They needed my advice and asked me the about the following topics:

• Anxiety about how to start their career as a data scientist
• No idea how to acquire data science skills
• No idea which data science area is the best
• Want to know my recommend courses and learning methods
• Want to know useful ways without enough time
• Private courses are too expensive to attend
• Fear because of a lack science background, but wanting to learn nonetheless
• Trouble learning because of the predominance of males at lectures for example.
Strangely, in my previous job at Albert, Inc., I rarely heard these kinds of concerns. I suspect I have become easier to consult after leaving such a big organization. Additionally, there is a dire need for women to know the reality of starting a data science business. And, there is a connection with my main business; people analytics for human resources departments.

While listening to their concerns, I discovered the difficulties of working women, especially in the data science area. Around that time, I heard about WiDS and felt “I needed to learn more about the gender gap in this area”.

Gender gap?
I have many experiences, like, “Wow, there are few women!” at various communities of data scientists. It is probably common if you are cognizant of gender gaps in this area. But I have never faced gender discrimination on the skill definition committee of the Japan Data Science Society and lots of study groups. There certainly weren’t many women, but people never asked me “How do you think as a woman?” “Any ideas from the woman?” I am just a participant, just a data scientist and just a human.

The problem with the gender gap for me was sexual and power harassment from clients and business partners. When my male boss wasn’t present at meetings, they sometimes made impossible requests and shouted loudly. I often became depressed at business dinners. Since I started my own business, men often both sexually and power harass me, and I think “Do they do it instead of saying hello?” (Sexual harassment of female entrepreneurs is so unique). But in my previous company, a big organization, I faced no gender gaps at work like this — “Not able to get a position because of gender”, “No chance for women”.

But, most women who wanted my advice faced gender gaps at their organizations and in their communities. They also have issues for their career as data scientist. Fortunately, I had no experience like them and I discovered those cases have been common in data science area. Around that time, I found WiDS, and a respected person told me “You should tell your career, story and your business more because there are few female entrepreneurs in this area.”

The enthusiasm of WiDS Stanford
I attended a WiDS conference at Stanford University on 4th March 2019 while preparing for WiDS Tokyo@YCU on 23rd March 2019. I had a shocking experience at the conference.

There were over 400 attendees on the Stanford University campus and their momentum of passion seemed to explode. Over 95% of attendees were female data scientists, students and people whose businesses were based on data science. The presentations and panel discussions by active female data scientists and engineers were so incredible. They were courageous, exciting and beautiful with pride in their roles. Comments by the three directors of WiDS — Karen, Margot and Judy, and the passion of all attendees made me excited and crazy. I spoke with many data scientists from all over the world and listened to their presentations, I discovered some new things.

The number of women with computer jobs has been decreasing even in the United States. Women don’t promote their success compared to men. There are few female speakers at technology conferences. There seemed to be many examples of laughter that there were no women at “The first Women in X” of technology conference”. And there is serious gender gap in several countries, including Japan. People laughed every time when I talked “I often have opportunity to be a speaker at data science conferences”. They said, “Isn’t there a gender gap in Japan, really?” “No, you are a unicorn!” And I got serious because Japan was the last G20 country to join WiDS conferences around the world. I felt that was a crisis for Japanese.

WiDS provides content and materials to ambassadors who want to challenge the same initiative. They have to agree on WiDS rules and to be judged, after that, they can use WiDS methods for free. It is incredible and fantastic. There are a lot of women who are challenging this. I have many friends from all over the world, I discovered “I am not alone”. Many women who have many issues often visit me. I thought, “ I must do something! What can I do? What is the best way to begin? Data science is great job which can contribute society, so regardless of gender, I should bring more people to this area. Wow, have I been challenging the same thing on the skill definition committee at the Japan Data Science Society I can do more and more, I can try more exciting things! “ I heard clear sounds of innovation from the bottom of my heart. I myself was really deeply inspired by WiDS and came back to Japan.

WiDS and Rejoui, Inc
I talked to my co-workers at Rejoui, Inc — my company — about the WiDS Stanford experience and asked “Please let me use your resources to succeed at WiDS Tokyo@YCU.” It is a coincidence that employees at Rejoui, Inc are all women as of September 2019. They all sympathized and helped me very well. The first conference of WiDS Tokyo@YCU was a great success due to my many “WiDS friends”.

Our corporate philosophy is “We support everyone’s fulfillment of hopes and ambitions”, regardless of gender. One part for our activities, I would like to spread WiDS in Japan with big motivation — I would like to say, “Be crazy with enthusiasm!” loudly.