How many women do you have on your Big Data strategy team? I'm guessing not enough. As you might imagine, there should be an equal balance of men and women on your Big Data strategy team. That includes data scientists, analytic leaders and managers, content experts, and possibly business analysts.
Although all the management and leadership sages incessantly extol the virtues of diversity, this is still a problem I see on Big Data strategy teams—especially when it comes to gender diversity. You need a good balance of men and women on your Big Data strategy team.
Women as data scientists
Women are terrific analytics and data scientists. There's little doubt in anyone's mind that analytic talent is gender neutral. Some of the smartest people I know are women and they have good representation in the math and science departments in college.
When I was pursuing my undergraduate degree in computer science, about half of my classmates were female. Things haven't changed much since then; however, I don't see the same proportion in the workplace. This tells me that women are being overlooked in the hiring process. This is a huge mistake, especially when companies are having such a hard time finding data scientists.
The added benefit of having female data scientists is twofold: they bring harmony and great creative power to the team. The team runs smoother when women are involved as they temper the huge egos that men usually bring to the table. Men tend to act more civilized when women are around and this eases the storming phase of team development.
Furthermore, women tend to have better imaginations, which is very important on a Big Data strategy team. They have a natural ability to think outside of the box and draw unlikely connections that can extricate a team from idea silo.
Women as analytic leaders
Although women are great data scientists, they're even better analytic leaders. Remember, to be an effective analytic leader takes special analytic skills—you cannot just expect any leader with the right title and a team of data scientists to work well. With this in mind, women have a remarkable ability to influence a Big Data strategy team—far better than men.
Female analytic leaders have a great ability to relate. Having a background in analytics helps them communicate effectively with the team and fosters trust and respect. In addition, they have an innate ability to connect on an emotional level. They don't sympathize—they empathize.
They are very good at internalizing what the team is dealing with so their leadership is authentic, engendering genuine followers. Again, this brings harmony to the team, but it's more effective when it's coming from the leader.
Women are also very effective at evangelism and stakeholder engagement—another vital role that the strategic leaders must play. Women have a communication style that is penetrating but non-threatening. They are very good at eliciting support from those in favor of the strategy and neutralizing resistance from those that don't. They also have a tendency to be well connected with the informal systems that run the company like rituals, stories, and group norms.
Finally, they network well with the other women in the organization which has a powerful effect on how well the organization adopts the new strategy.
If there's a gender imbalance on your Big Data strategy team, you're doing yourself a great disservice. Women are terrific analysts, terrific leaders, and terrific contributors to your overall goals. Not only do they bring all the creative benefits that any diverse culture would bring, they also bring a powerful harmony that's absent in most of the Big Data strategy teams that I see today. Take some time today to survey the gender diversity on your Big Data strategy team. You may find that it needs a woman's touch.
John Weathington is President and CEO of Excellent Management Systems, Inc., a management consultancy that helps executives turn chaotic information into profitable wisdom.