Data science has an image problem—and it's helping to fuel a critical lack of diversity. Almost 50 percent of female STEM students perceive data science to be overly theoretical and low impact. A sense that it is more competition-focused than other jobs is also behind their exit from the "talent funnel," according to a forthcoming report by Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and BCG GAMMA.
A significant share of STEM women across the globe also do not feel they have a good understanding of what a "data science career" is and what the day-to-day life of a data scientist in the workplace entails. The negative perception and lack of transparency combine to boost the gender gap: only 15 to 22 percent of data science professionals today are women.
Students around the world are picking up on an unfortunate reality: far too many companies still struggle to create real impact with AI, and many companies continue to lack a culture of collaboration in their analytics teams. The study reveals that nearly 75 percent of female data science majors are looking for exactly the opposite from their future jobs—namely applied, impact-driven work—while men are ambivalent.
Regarding transparency, the study revealed that only around 63 percent of men and 55 percent of women are well informed about the various career opportunities in data science. Even among data science and computer science majors, nearly half (47 percent) complained of poor clarity regarding career path options within the field. Australia, France, and Spain consistently achieved high rankings on transparency, while female students in China, Japan, and Germany consistently reported the lowest understanding of their options in this field.
Despite these variations across countries, the problem is fundamentally a global one, impacting diversity across this rapidly growing field. "Companies cannot simply rely on the media buzz around AI, hoping for the job of data scientist to magically 'sell itself' to students," said Sylvain Duranton, Senior Partner and Global Leader of BCG GAMMA and an author of the report.