Students attend a career panel discussion after the Women in Data Science livestream on March 2, 2020, in Williams Hall. The career panel featured three female speakers in the tech and big data industry. (Courtesy of Arielle Carr)

National conference highlights women in data science


Lehigh’s Computer Science and Engineering (CSE) department and the American Association for University Women hosted a livestream of the Women in Data Science (WiDS) Conference in Williams Hall on March 2.

The event’s goal was to generate exposure for data science and encourage exploration of the field.

The full-day event consisted of a livestream from Stanford University, a keynote speaker and a career panel.

It mimicked the events occurring at Stanford and approximately 150 other locations worldwide that same day. 

Students were invited to learn from the distinguished women speaking at Stanford, including Daphne Koller, CEO and founder of Insitro, and Ya Xu, the head of data science at LinkedIn.

Arielle Carr, a professor in Lehigh’s CSE department, co-organized the event along with Hannah Lee, ‘20, Ngan Tran, ‘22, and William Peracchio, ‘21.

Carr said she was interested in bringing underrepresented populations into the data science program to increase the academic discipline’s diversity, and she also addressed the importance of increasing the number of women in the data science field. 

“We need to see every perspective represented,” Carr said. 

Rebecca Wang, the keynote speaker at the livestream, reaffirmed Carr’s beliefs.

“Women are underrepresented,” Wang said. “We should change that.”

Both women spoke about the importance of diversity and the inclusion of multiple perspectives to gain new vantage points from which the field can be viewed and consequently progress.

During her speech, Wang spoke about combining causal information with machine learning to be applied to data analytics. 

As a researcher in the data science field and a professor of marketing analytics at Lehigh, Wang said she is passionate about the topic and frequently uses data sets in her own research. 

Students attending the event also had the opportunity to attend a career panel composed of accomplished women in the data science field. 

The panel consisted of Dana Budzyn, the co-founder and CEO of Universal Basic Data Income; Melissa Feeney, an advanced analytics analyst at PVH Corp.; and Colleen Raftery, the director at SAP Next-Gen.

Dana Budzyn, Melissa Feeney and Colleen Raftery, spoke at the Women in Data Science career panel in Williams Hall, on Mar. 2, 2020. The panel was part of the one-day technical conference, Women In Data Science Bethlehem. (Courtesy of Arielle Carr)

The three women answered questions from the moderator, Lee and other students to gain insight into the field from those fully immersed in it. 

They also offered additional advice and encouragement to those interested in pursuing a data science career. 

Lee also expressed an interest in data science. As a computer science major, she said she has been exposed to data science and was excited that Lehigh was hosting an event to garner exposure for the data science program in the campus community. 

Lehigh currently offers a data science minor to students across all the undergraduate colleges, consisting of five classes to educate students in the growing field. 

“Data science is not broadly advertised at Lehigh, and it is important to draw more attention to it,” Lee said.

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