Although the number of women within the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields continues to grow, women are still underrepresented when compared to their male counterparts. Women were less likely to enter and more likely to leave STEM Fields, making up roughly 36% of all recipients of STEM post-secondary degrees in Canada, according to a 2018 Statistics Canada study.
It’s a disparity that Scotiabank’s Senior Data Scientist, Padmini Vellore, has seen in her own career.
“When I was doing my engineering program only 10% were girls in my undergrad. And then during my masters and PhD program, I was one of the very few women in there, especially in my field, computer engineering. And moving to the data science side, I still see fewer women,” she said.
Vellore, who has long been an advocate of encouraging women to pursue their STEM ambitions, joined Scotiabank’s Women in Data & Analytics (WIDA) committee of the Bank’s broader Women employee resource group as a way to get involved and make a difference for young women, and students in particular.
WIDA was formed in June 2019 with the aim of empowering and educating women within data analytics, fostering their growth. The group has hosted mentorship and development sessions for women both within and outside of the Bank.
“It’s inspiring to see a growing proportion of women succeeding in data and analytics, science, technology, engineering and mathematics — but there’s still work to be done and we all have a role to play as allies, sponsors, and employers,” said Grace Lee, Scotiabank’s Senior Vice President & Chief Analytics Officer. “I am proud of the efforts by the Bank’s Women in Data & Analytics group to progress this cause through skills development and mentorship, both for our own employees and in the communities we serve.”
Earlier this year, WIDA worked with Scotiabank’s Academic Sponsorships team to find opportunities and events at University of Waterloo that help young women in the field of data, analytics and STEM.
|Photo: Scotiabank Senior Data Scientist Padmini Vellore.|
In April, Vellore volunteered at a University of Waterloo conference for 11th grade girls in partnership with WIDA. She spoke about user experience, or UX design, and answered the students’ questions about technical advancement, career development and interview preparation among other topics.
“They were very career driven and I noticed that after the conference they were trying to connect with me and get me involved in some of their initiatives. I really applaud their involvement.”
Other events WIDA has participated in include a session helping women computer science students at the University of Waterloo to prep for technical interviews.
Initiatives like WIDA are focused on facing gender gaps head-on and making efforts to mitigate them. Vellore said encouraging other women in STEM and boosting representation is “very important.”
“Men are really good at networking. They don't hesitate to talk to others to connect with people and ask them for help. But women often think that they don't have sufficient talent. They often think that maybe they are not technically strong to get into this field. So, having some support from people like us who have been in this field for a while, will keep them encouraged, and will keep them motivated to go climb up the ladder.”
Vellore highlighted the fact that many women still struggle with finding their confidence within STEM fields, herself included.
“I think I was in that stage for the longest time, thinking that I don't know enough — I'm not ready for it. And the minute I actually stepped into the industry, that's when I knew — I know a lot more,” she said. “Why was I thinking that I didn't know? Why did I sell myself short? I came into a lower position than I could have been in, although I was recognized and within the first year, they were able to promote me.”
She undersold herself because of low confidence, and she hopes to change that mindset for others, she added.
“That's something I would like to advise. Do not undersell yourself or think that you don’t know, think that you can do it.”