Data Science: R-Ladies Coding Community Sparks an Exciting New Chapter in Beijing

As the decade came to a close, notably one of the top in-demand career options was data science. In 2018, LinkedIn declared the demand for data science to be off the charts. Almost all companies can collect data thus the need for employees who can organize and analyze this data is at an all-time high. However, right now the field appears to be a boys club.

Beijing-based programmer Clara Wang is doing her best to change that, and getting a lot of help in her efforts. Last Saturday she led the first-ever workshop to encourage women to learn R programming language, which is in high demand in China and around the world.

Programmers keenly follow clara’s presentation (Source: Vanessa)

Wang heads the Beijing chapter of R-Ladies, a global group dedicated to increasing the representation of minority genders in the R community. Wang is a data scientist with a commendable portfolio in data analysis using R, Python and SQL in politics, healthcare, non-profits and data privacy. Clara is also a Yenching scholar at Peking University.

Some common proposed reasons for the gender gap include a lack of education in math and science for women early on in life, a lack of mentorship for women in data science, and human resource rules and regulations not catching up to gender balance policies.

Wang said, “There tends to be a gender bias against women learning different technical skills. Creating a safe open environment for people to ask questions and learn in a way where they don’t feel judged — that’s one way to bridge the gender gap.”

Attendees attempt the code practically (Source: Vanessa)

That’s why she gave a riveting 2-hour introduction called “Telling Stories with Data: Make a Data Visualization in R” last weekend. It kicked off at precisely 3 pm in the tech hub Zhonguancun in Beijing.

She explained that data scientists are skilled personnel who incorporate coding language to easily represent and tell stories with data. One of the most prominent coding languages is R.

“R is a programming language that’s really popular among data scientists and is used a lot for different statistical programming methods and machine learning as well as data visualization,” she explained “Simply put, R allows you to write code by automating the process where you drag and drop from an Excel sheet, usually a tedious process, or for interesting analyses for different industries like finance, fashion and e-commerce. So it’s a way to make your job less boring with less Excel.”

Networking and sharing session at the end of the workshop (Source: Vanessa)

In today’s labor market, learning R is a solid career move. IBM estimates that demand for data scientists and analysts will leap by 28% by 2020, so big data experts can depend on having job security. In recent years China has topped the global charts in technological advancements. The rise is primarily attributed to substantial government investment in new technology, particularly regarding customer data with a focus on facial recognition and artificial intelligence used to compile this data. This in turn causes a ripple effect for an increased demand for data scientists. The IBM stats find the Chinese talent shortage in data science will reach an estimated 1.5 million vacant positions by 2020.

The organizing team of Saturday’s seminar included R-Ladies, Ladies Who Tech, Innoway, Startup Grind and Akkadu. This wide range of support is in itself is a clear representation of the innovative and revolutionary young professionals in the Beijing tech scene. Miatta Momoh, director for Ladies Who Tech (LWT) Beijing, an organization started by women who are in the STEM industries and believe in challenging the status quo by encouraging and assisting more women to discover their potential in STEM.

Inno Way in Zhongguancun, Beijing (Source: Vanessa)

R-Ladies is a worldwide organization aimed at promoting gender diversity in the R-Community by building a collaborative community of R leaders, mentors, learners, developers and enthusiasts. It was founded by Gabriela de Queiroz with the sole aim of developing R language skills. The mission is slowly coming to fruition with over 165 chapters in 47 countries and 50, 000 members, according to stats provided by Ladies Who Tech.

Momoh said, “We are very grateful to support R-Ladies in the initiative they do, we also have fantastic support from Innoway and Startup Grind and it’s just making these spaces available and making it inclusive. These solutions are available, this technology is available, come and try it!” Momoh added that the purpose of the event was “also to spotlight people that are already doing it such as Clara, and to show people that there are women in STEM doing great things.”

The R community has established its intended goal and agenda in Beijing, with only great things to come for the data science community.