Why Diversity in Data Science Matters

Technology Close up stock image of a young asian woman staring at a computer screen which is reflected in her glasses. The reflection depicts graphs; people & data.

Customer obsession runs deep at Intuit.

To deliver the kind of relevant, seamless, and high-value experiences our customers expect, we need to be able to understand their needs and perspectives. In fact, empathy is the foundation of the design thinking principles that guide our product development. That’s one of the reasons we place such importance on diversity and inclusion. The more our organization represents the full breadth of our customer base, the better we’re able to deliver on our mission to improve prosperity for people of all kinds.

As part of our commitment to increasing diversity – not just at our own company, but across the tech industry – Intuit was a top-tier Global Visionaries sponsor for the recent Global WiDS (Women in Data Science) Conference 2019. Held at Stanford University in tandem with 150 regional events, this year’s WiDS Conference attracted more than 100,000 participants around the world to celebrate and advance the work being done by women in this revolutionary field.

During the event, Kavita Sangwan, Intuit’s Director of Technical Programs, Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, shared her views in an interview with SiliconAngle’s The Cube. Here are some highlights of the discussion.

Expanding the data science skill set

People often think of data science skills in technical terms, including computational mathematics, engineering, and data analysis. “There’s another side that’s just as important,” Kavita says. “You also need skills around being a team player, collaborating, empathy, and communication. It’s important for us to operate in a team setting. A data scientist has to interact with a product manager, a data engineer, a business person, a legal person. We need the ability to have those conversations the right way in a cross-cultural space.”

Moving the needle on diversity and inclusion

Representation shouldn’t be constrained by rank—especially in an industry where woman hold so few leadership positions. “It’s important for us to empower and grow the people we hire by providing training opportunities in areas such as executive presence, negotiation, and public speaking, as well as helping advance their tech skills,” Kavita says.

Intuit’s opportunities—and responsibilities—as a data science-driven company

Intuit has invested heavily in recent years to embed AI and ML across our product suites and technology platforms. By making our products smart, we can give our customers more personalized tools to get more done with less work, save money, and achieve their financial goals.

Of course, the vast opportunities offered by data science also come with an important responsibility. As we make greater use of customer data—always with their consent, of course—we must also maintain their trust. “We operate with the mindset that this is the customer’s data, and we want to be the best stewards we can be as we use it to build smart products for them,” Kavita says.

To view the full interview, including Kavita’s advice for young girls seeking to make an impact, you can find the video here.

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