The Data Scientist #S01
We’re really excited to be here with Dr. Georgia Kouyialis, a millennial woman in technology (tech) who has graduated from UCL in Mathematics and from Imperial College of London with PhD in Computer Science. Georgia has been working in the tech industry the past few years.
Lets dive right into it. Talk to us a little bit about Georgia.
I am a Data scientist in a software technology company based in London. My role is inter alia liaising with clients from multiple industries and enabling them to use their historical data, find patterns and build models/applications for predicting future events. Before joining my current company I worked as a research scientist in the energy and automotive sector in the UK and the US. Beyond my work I am involved with training, recruiting and social events. I am actively supporting volunteering initiatives for advancing equal opportunities to education for minorities and people from unprivileged backgrounds. I am also leading an employee resource group for people living with disabilities.
How do you feel working in the tech industry which is fair to say is dominated by men?
Being a woman in the tech industry makes me feel powerful. Technology is currently a fast-growing sector that impacts our life. Examples consist of everyday comforts as gadgets, devices for advancing social communication and remote work, and spans to advanced equipment in healthcare for dealing with long-life diseases.Similar to other industries, technology has traditionally been a man-dominated world. So it comes as no surprise if we think of all the stereotypes we are exposed to, as males hacking software systems and playing video games. I wish to see more highly skilled women entering and leading the technology sector.
How do you feel as a woman at the company you work at?
I am surrounded by a very supportive and respectful environment. There is an internal employees resource group for empowering women (and similar ones for other social/culture matters) with male and female colleague participants. I have to admit that especially in the startup scene, companies are actively working on improving both the gender balance and gender pay gap. This is linked to the tremendous ongoing efforts of social organisations supporting women in the tech industry. Moreover, we receive more women applications than before due to the increase of female students’ attendance in science courses.
What do you think are the biggest obstacles that a woman working in the technology sector faces? And with respect to your professional career, what have been yours (if any)?
Speaking for the broader sector I would say that women mostly lack role models in high/leading positions. Very few CEO or directors are females and there is a disconnection of paths from managerial roles to the top. Subsequently, the gender pay gap is unequally varying for multiple positions. It makes me sad to see women not confident to ask what they are worth by their work efforts. Besides that, both in academia and industry, women are constantly under the microscope of proving the quality of their technical skills to evident their position. I do recall cases where people would joke that I received an award because I am a woman. This brings us to another social concern of receiving such behaviors as the norm.
From your experience /surroundings do you think a woman can balance her work-personal life without compromising her career and could you say that that is the same for men having the same job position?
Ι believe that the nature of tech jobs encourages good conditions for work/life balance. Concepts as remote working, flexible working hours, paternity/maternity leave (where applicable) , social events support a good lifestyle. Also, I want to believe that overworking in tech is commonly acknowledged to result in burden and inefficiency and should be avoided. For a young professional with no family, I would say that it is the same situation for a male colleague at a similar life stage.
From your knowledge by growing up and attending school in Cyprus do you feel that pursuing a career /studies in STEM was promoted equally for girls and boys ? if no, what do you think could be improved?
Growing up in Cyprus I personally feel that I had the right support to pursue studies in STEM. The education system fairly enabled boys and girls to study science modules, however that does not reflect the overall society stereotypes. Engineering positions are mostly dominated by men and social media promotes males on computer science related roles. I am a big believer that change comes through primary education. In our case we need to change the perception of the society at a professional level. Programs in business to promote the advancement of diverse environments and support minorities at the work environment would be a good start.
Do you believe that all women irrespective of their background (ethnic, social, sexual) are represented in the tech industry or do you witness a diversity gap?
Technology leaders recognise the importance of developing inclusive cultures at their core. Unfortunately, racial minorities still rank as a low percentage of employees. The extreme geographic concentrations of tech companies in Europe and the US, limit industries’ ability to connect with, recruit and retain talent from a wider pool. Focusing on startups, from their early stages of operation there is space to implement clear diversity representation, equality and inclusion (DEI) goals, and a comprehensive approach to achieve those. Moreover, it is important to invest in talent search across different countries and educational backgrounds. Last but not least, retaining employees in healthy and supportive work environments with access to well-being, coaching, employees groups, and other programs is a way forward. There is opportunity for diversity in tech and policy and we must all make a commitment to getting there.
What advice would you give to a woman considering technology as her career?
I would encourage any woman to seek a career in the technology sector. It is a thrilling space with a major impact on the real world. Don’t be afraid to step into a world that is still gendered imbalanced with all the aforementioned obstacles. Focus on learning and personal cultivation. You do not need to prove your worth to anyone but only improve and move forward for yourself. While doing that, definitely stand up/ speak up for others when you observe that certain behaviors shouldn’t be accepted.