The Harvard Business Review called the data scientist the “Sexiest Job of the 21th Century.” Touted for its high job availability and potential for high salaries, the role of data science is becoming pervasive in all walks of life.
However, research bears out that data science has the lowest diversity of all tech fields. Recent estimates show that Black people make up just 3 percent of data and analytics professionals.
There are a lot of reasons behind these numbers: lack of early STEM education and lack of mentorship and funding opportunities for minorities as well as exclusionary workplace cultures.
The lack of diversity not only hurts minorities trying to break into data research, but it is also a serious issue in terms of the quality of research and products being turned out. Data algorithms are susceptible to bias so to build them correctly, you have to have a team that includes a wide range of views and experiences in order to ask the right questions.
Two schools taking a deliberate approach
Funding for minority education and startups is increasing, but a couple of universities in Kentucky are being very purposeful in what they are doing with those funding dollars.
Two programs have been launched at the University of Kentucky that are aimed at creating a more inclusive research and development innovation ecosystem: the Engaging Researchers and Innovators for Commercialization at HBCUs (EnRICH) program and Kentucky Commercialization Ventures (KCV). Each received a $25,000 prize as part of the “Visionary” category in the new Lab-to-Market (L2M) Inclusive Innovation Ecosystem Prize Competition.
Bellarmine University is taking a practical approach to inclusion with The Butterfly Project, a virtual, paid internship opportunity between Bellarmine and Central High School. The program is backed by the Microsoft Future Work Initiative, Louisville Urban League, and TECH-Nique, Inc.
In the program, teenage students will be teamed up with university students to learn how to collect and use data and innovative technology as a way to show racial disparities in the five areas of housing, health, education, jobs, and justice.
“The students will have had an opportunity to see how harnessing the power of data can be used to further social justice efforts,” Alisia McClain, co-founder of this project, said in a statement.
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