Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Inaugural Women in Statistics 2014: Highlights and Discussion Points

This week I attended the Women in Statistics conference which was held May 15-17 in the Raleigh-Durham area in North Carolina. I wrote a blog post prior to the conference and this is my follow up post. The theme of the conference was "Know Your Power" in which women discussed transformative moments in their lives and discussed ways to make positive changes in our field. To see more details on individual talks, you can search for tweets with the hashtag #WiS2014. The conference was filled with phenomenal talks/discussions, but I want to give a few highlights from the conference. 

[Pictured (bottom row, left to right): Stephanie Hicks, Jenna Krall, Alyson Wilson, Alicia Carriquiry]
[Pictured (top row, left to right): Cal Tate Moore, Rachel Schutt, Sally C. Morton, Samantha Tyner]

Here are a few key discussion points I took away from the conference:
  1. Social media (blogging, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc) is a great way to build a brand for yourself. Arati Mejdal gave several examples of statisticians and data scientists who have done this such as Hilary Mason (popular blog and twitter feed), Emma Pierson (recent graduate from Stanford who wrote a hilarious article on FiveThirtyEight showing people really just want to date themselves) and Andrew Gelman who says he uses his blog as a way to "steer statistics in a useful way". Two key points to make the most of social media are post regularly and actively comment / engage in discussions. As statisticians or data scientists, the best posts are visual and brief and they are different from academic articles (expert, but friendly).  
  2. Start networking now. Alicia Carriquiry gave a beautiful talk on how to build and nurture your professional network.  Some of the advice included: attend professional meetings, never turn down the opportunity to present your work, chat with people who have similar interests and those who have different interests, be willing to introduce yourself to people you would like to meet, create & practice your elevator pitch and get objective reviews of your performance early in your career.  If you are a young professor, invite other young professors from different departments to give talks and you may have the opportunity to do the same in their department. Jessica Utts (newly elected ASA president for 2016) said she came to "know her power" when she recognized the value of networking.  
  3. Do what makes you happy. It does not matter if your career takes you into academia, industry, government or a bit of all three: as Sally Morton said "Go where you will have the most impact and be most happy. If you are happy, that's where you'll be the most productive".  Rachel Schutt discussed how she did not know at the time how all the pieces of her career (e.g. graduate school, teaching, working at Google, professor Columbia University, etc) would come to fit together at current position. She just did what made her happy. Francesca Dominici led a discussion on Why women can't have it all? in which she stated "It is OK to want to spend time with your children. It OK to be passionate and committed about your work". She argued "a new definition of academic success should be defined to include rewards for teaching and mentoring".  No simple fix, but rather there needs to be a cultural change amongst both men and women to redefine the idea of "academic success". 
  4. The Imposter Syndrome is a real thing. Don't be discouraged by it, but rather recognize the problem if it's affecting you and focus your strengths. Focus on what you have accomplished versus the things you have not. The imposter syndrome is not the same thing as low self-esteem: low self-esteem is boosted when you have a success, but the imposter syndrome makes you feel more terrified if you have a success. For some additional thoughts on this, check out Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead and The Confidence Gap
  5. Grace Wahba is simply a hero.  I'm not sure I could ever do her talk justice by trying to summarize it. I will say listening to her talk about her early career was a very surreal and a humbling experience. I feel fortunate to not have to face many of the challenges she faced, but listening to her talk was one of the highlights of the entire conference fore me!  I just encourage everyone to attend her COPSS Fisher Lecture at JSM August 6, 2014 at 4pm.  
Final thoughts: The conference was filled with enlightening talks from speakers of all backgrounds and of all ages who challenged the conference participants to "know your power" through sharing their own stories and experiences. These women are an inspiration and I know many younger women attending the conference felt very encouraged to take on the challenges that lie ahead of us.  I learned a great deal of professional and career development tools and felt men could have just as easily benefited from them too.  Thank you to the organizers and everyone who spent countless hours putting together an extraordinary conference.  I would highly recommend Women in Statistics to future participants!

I leave you with a few more pictures from the conference:

Panel of past and future presents of the American Statistical Association

Mixing and mingling at the poster session Friday night

A little bit of fun: superhero statisticians to the rescue (post-poster session)! 

Sally Morton sharing some of her experiences from the conference including her first "selfie" 

 The amazing Grace Wahba and her "Ah-ha" moments

Thanks to all sponsors.
Platinum: Duke U, NIGMS/NIH, ASA, Minerva Research Foundation, Walmart
Gold: IBM, Lowe's
Silver: Biogen Idec, Experian, Lilly, Minitab, Morestream, SAS
Bronze: Berry Consultants, Cytel, JMP, Nielsen, NC State, Rho, RTI, Stata, UNC, Westat

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The inaugural Women in Statistics Conference

This week is the inaugural Women in Statistics Conference being held May 15-17, 2014 in Cary, North Carolina. This conference is targeted at women at varying stages starting from graduate school all the way through tenured professors or well-funded CEOs in industry.  As a female statistician (and a postdoctoral fellow), I am very excited to attend this conference celebrating women in statistics!  Here are a few of the reasons why: 
  1. The opportunity to listen to and to interact with an entire community of female statisticians from industry, academia & government is one of the most attractive aspects of this conference. Not only will these talks/breakout sessions focus on a diverse set of career opportunities, they will also focus on useful topics on how to obtain these positions e.g. Answering tricky interview questions, Things I wish I knew when I started working, Optimizing your job search, How to negotiate what you are worth, The value of internshipsPreparing for promotion in academia, etc. These are all topics both men and women in our field can benefit from, so I plan to create a second blog post summarizing ideas/notes that are relevant for the entire statistical community.  
  2. Statistics as a discipline is currently facing its own set of challenges within the larger community of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), one including being able to attract women to the STEM fields. Many people have suggested ideas and discussed reasons why this is happening. I cannot speak for other women, but I can say one of the reasons why I am I where I am today is the copious amount of support that I have receieved from not only my family and friends, but most importantly from my mentors, faculty advisors and peers.  I was fortunate enough to not have "a terrible graduate school experience", but rather one filled with mentoring, guidance and patience. I know this conference will also be filled with mentoring and guidance from other female statisticians, many of which I consider to be role models. Conferences like this provide women with the information and tools needed to thrive not only in statistics, but in the larger STEM fields as well.  
  3. The idea of gender inequality in the field of statistics is not a new story, but it has been recently discussed in several articles. Ingram Olkin and Terry Speed both discussed the fact that at JSM 2012 "of the four named lectures (i.e. Wald, Rietz, Neyman, Fisher), the seven medallion lectures, and the two invited lectures, none of them were women". Amanda Golbeck wrote an Op-ed titled Where Are the Women in the JSM Registration Guide? in which stated "a productive way to help recruit, retain and nourish women professionals is to provide strong role models for them".  I completely agree and this conference will discuss several of these issues in talks and breakout sessions on topics such as Increasing Visibility of Women in Statistics, Increasing the Number of Women AwardsRecruiting and Retaining Women and Minorities in Statistical Science, Women in Science: Contributions, Inspirations, and Rewards, and Finding Our Place in History: Decades of Women Pioneers and Trail Blazers to name a few.  
  4. I'm particularly excited about the Internet Activism: Using social media to enhance your career breakout session. I learned this idea of using social media as tool to keep up with the literature & make a internet presence for yourself fairly late in my graduate school career. It's a way academic departments and industries can learn about your research interests and contributions.  I know the use of social media has absolutely transformed the way I function as a researcher. I was introduced to this idea actually from the genetics/genomics community by attending the American Society of Human Genetics for the past several years.  I think statisticians haven't quite caught on to the social media bug like the world of genomics, but as statistics departments are grappling with the debate of adsorbing statistics into incredibly popular emerging field of "data science", this is a topic I think many statisticians would find particularly useful.  
In addition, I have been asked to lead a discussion on Taking on Leadership Positions on Saturday morning.  I thought about what questions might be the most useful to ask and here are a few ideas that I have come up with:
  1. What defines a good leader? Is it innovation, focus, communication, ability to hire creative people with diverse backgrounds, ability to risk failing?  Some articles I found relevant were the Harvard Business Review put out an article on Real Leadership Lessons of Steve Jobs and the Forbes Women Leaders Must Dive In, Not Just Lean In. What other articles are good reference points? 
  2. Who are some examples of great leaders inside or outside the field of statistics? 
  3. What are some examples of positions require leadership skills inside or outside the field of statistics?  What do these positions have in common? 
  4. In what ways might someone who does not have an innate ability to lead learn to lead?   Are the qualities (from Q1) usually inherited or can they be learned?  
  5. What are the different styles of leaders? 
  6. How do you balance a position of leadership and maintain a balanced life either with your research and/or family life? 

I welcome other thoughts/suggestions! I plan to live tweet as many talks/breakout sessions as I can (you can follow me @stephaniehicks), but I will definitely write a second blogpost summarizing my thoughts and key points taken away from the conference.