Who would have thought that the process after landing the job was the most challenging part of the job application process?
Growing up as a first-generation college student with Caribbean parents in the inner city of New York, there was a strong emphasis on attending college to get a "good" job. Knowing how hard my parents worked to provide for my family motivated me to try my hardest to make them proud. 
Fast forward to finishing my bachelor's degree in public health as a magna cum laude scholar, working several jobs in college, and going to school full time, I still was unsure of how I was going to land this "good" job in healthcare management. At this point, it was hard to communicate my shortcomings to my parents because they were anticipating that I would have secured a high paying job by now. In fear of my parents questioning my degree's credibility, I reached out to people in my field for guidance and mentorship. This was one of my saving graces because I created meaningful relationships and learned how to restrategize my career search. In talking with my mentors, it was interesting to note that all of the women mentors of color all had at least one graduate degree. While I was solely relying on my work experience to help me land my first gig, I decided to take a leap of faith and apply for a 1-year graduate degree program in business administration. Despite not having any prior business experience, I felt this would eventually add more value to my work portfolio and expose me to more job opportunities.
While in business school, I noticed analytical skills were becoming more sought after skills in the competitive job descriptions. I thought combining my public health experience with analytics would realign my purpose and begin the pillars of my data career. As I continued taking more analytics courses, I began to feel bittersweet again about my career trajectory because I was unsure how to combine it with public health. At the time, I struggled to assert myself as an analytics expert in public health because I was neither a healthcare professional nor someone with a technical degree. Even though my mentors were supportive in this phase, my work and course experience became more niched down, and I needed to seek more support. As a result, I decided to do more research on career opportunities, join support groups for people in data careers, and work on more data-driven projects, which later led me to secure my first role in data.
Despite going through this journey to land this role, I've realized the grass is not always greener on the other side because staying in the job is the hardest part. While I am fortunate that I have this experience, I understand first hand that navigating your career path can feel challenging when you don't have access to specific educational resources and support groups. As I expanded my network, I found a poor representation of women in these careers in the media and workplace.
While the demand for data science and technology occupations is expected to grow during the next decade, women remain underrepresented in these fields, even with growth opportunities.
According to the Boston Consulting Group, 15 percent to 22 percent of today's data science professionals are women. Forbes reported that women who are data analysts do not usually hold managerial roles, considering 18 percent of leadership positions are at premier tech companies. Women in these fields have often reported mistreatment, bullying, gender pay gap, and lack of mentorship as leading reasons for leaving the field. The lack of high retention rates of women and underrepresented groups encouraged me to share my story at the pandemic's peak in the hopes of staying motivated and educating other non-traditional data enthusiasts before they are discouraged from applying to the field.
Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, I have since connected with several aspiring data, science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) professionals who have asked my advice on what skills they need to get into the field and realized that people lack data educational resources. With this in mind, I launched the #Datagirl social media campaign to help spread awareness of women in the field and connect them to more data resources. In the hopes of continuing this goal, I have started coaching data enthusiasts to land their first role, share educational resources for job placement, and released a limited edition of data-inspired merchandise, where a portion of proceeds goes to support my scholarship. This scholarship will assist a selected number of underrepresented women/and or non-binary identifying persons to cover the costs of a data certification or career resources of their choice.
With Data Science being deemed one of the most desirable jobs and expected to multiply in job opportunities, data professionals are eligible to increase their pay scale and play a significant role in using data to improve business decisions.
I am proud to represent and promote data literacy to more people, pay it forward, and drive the discussion to redefine the face of data and technology careers. If you are interested in joining the movement and showing your support with a Limited Edition Data Girl shirt or donating directly to the cause, please visit www.datagirlash.com.


Ashley M. Scott