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Winners of female-only data hackathon announced

Several firms banded together to run a virtual female-only hackathon to encourage data analysts to use Covid-19 data to solve pandemic-related problems

TrueCue and Alteryx, with help from several partner firms, have run a data analytics hackathon geared towards challenging female data scientists to analyse pandemic data creatively.

More than 300 women were gathered into 40 teams and given access to Covid-19 datasets, which they were asked to analyse and interpret to create insights and solutions to pandemic-related challenges.

Bingqian Gao, data science lead at TrueCue, said one of the reasons for developing and running the hackathon was to “promote” the data science industry.

“People out there have the skillsets to do really well in the industry and they would love it, but some of them don’t really have the resources or know about the industry,” she said.

Gao hopes the Women in Data Hackathon will be the first activity in an ongoing campaign to promote diversity and inclusion in the data industry.

There is a lack of women in the UK’s technology sector – they make up only about 17% of technical roles – and the data science field is no different.

Gao said she and her team have always been people who “learn things by doing”, and the two-week, female-only data hackathon focused on encouraging groups of women to get hands-on with datasets, facilitated by industry experts.

More than 10 partner organisations, including universities, technology firms and career networks, helped with the hackathon, and each of the 40 teams was mentored by a tech expert.

Participants comprised a mix of women, including students, people who want to move into analytics from other industries, people working in analytics, and some aiming to return to work, but they all had to have some kind of knowledge of data analytics.

Using Covid-19-related datasets from around the world, which participants could choose to “enrich” with their own data, the teams were challenged to use analytics techniques to produce some kind of insight based on the data.

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After the two weeks, a panel of eight judges chose five teams to present their ideas, and three were chosen as winners. The winners of the hackathon were:

GoogleGals won Best Overall by using data to look into the factors affecting responses to the virus in different countries. They used different techniques, such as descriptive analytics and a random forest machine learning model, and some members learnt how to use Python for the first time as part of the challenge.

FishingConsultancy won Most Impactful Story-telling, looking into different regional responses to the pandemic and presented the data in a “news report” style.

Team MACS won Most Creative Presentation, using a combination of global governance data and a Covid-19 response tracker to compare pandemic responses in areas with male vs female leaders.

Gao emphasised that the main objective of the hackathon was to help participants build a community, learn, grow and share. They will have gained skills from taking part in the hackathon, such as using certain tools, presenting, project management and visual best practices, which they can continue to use after the hackathon, even if they didn’t win.

Although the hackathon itself had female-only participants, many of the group facilitators were men, and Gao said everyone needs to work to create a more inclusive tech sector.

“It shouldn’t just be participation from one side of the room – we need everyone to come together to actually achieve diversity and inclusivity,” she said.

Libby Duane Adams, founding partner and chief customer officer at Alteryx, one of the firms that worked to deliver the hackathon, said organisations of all sizes are currently thinking about how they can use their data to automate processes, adding: “Everybody is thinking about ‘How do I gain more insights?’ – it’s through data.”

Duane Adams said companies are currently in the market for talent to perform data analytics, and she emphasised the importance of diversity, creativity and different skillsets when it comes to analysing data – which was mirrored by the hackathon participants.

“Analytics is a creative process,” she said. “When companies approach analytics by embracing diversity, they are going to see better results.”

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