Why we need more math (wo)men

12 Sep, 2013

by Anastasia Lyapchenko,  Head of Analytics at Crimtan.

With the conference season in full swing, the industry should be able to approach the end of the year with a pretty good idea of the key challenges and what needs to be done to overcome them. I wouldn’t mind betting that many of the problems involve data and most of the solutions will be heavily reliant on some pretty complex number crunching. Whether it’s improving the probability of someone responding to an advert, deciding on the most effective bidding strategies, or developing better algorithms for audience profile development, one thing is for sure; there has never been more demand for mathematics skills in digital advertising.

Strangely though, when you look at the faces attending the most technically challenging seminars, the vast majority appear to be male. It made me wonder why this is the case, and whether the industry would benefit from employing more women with good math skills?

It is commonly acknowledged that ‘Math men’ are replacing ‘Mad men’ in digital advertising, but the Government has highlighted a maths and science skills shortage in Britain, and technology giants such as Google and Facebook have all bemoaned the fact that there are aren’t enough employees with the right skills. A quick look at AdExchanger’s jobs board shows multiple vacancies for ‘Senior Data Scientist’, ‘Bid Strategist’, ‘Technical Project Manager’, ‘Solutions Engineer’ and many more. So how can the industry fill these new roles?

As a female data scientist working within a technology focussed company like Crimtan, I am concerned that there is so much wasted female talent – women who are very able at math but who don’t use their talent. Women can not only fill the skills gap facing our industry, but employing more math women is key to greater innovation and creativity in problem solving, as more diversity brings different skills and ways of thinking to the workforce.

Just a few weeks ago, the London Mathematical Society pointed out that female mathematicians enter a wide range of careers in private and public sectors across many industries, although the transition from academia can be challenging as the industry does not employ mathematicians in its purest sense, although employers are always keen to apply mathematical skills across a variety of roles. It went on to say that “the consequence of scientifically trained women applying their skills in different employment sectors is in the noted increase of cultural diversity and perspective that leads to an improved culture of good governance and best practice standards of scientific management applied to common industry problems.”

More needs to be done at an entry level to the industry to ensure that women leaving education for their first step on the career ladder understand the opportunities available to them in ad tech. This industry is developing fast, has lots of investment, and a wealth of innovation and ideas, so women have the opportunity to shape industry at this key stage in its development.

At Crimtan, our technology department is lucky to have half a dozen women with higher math qualifications working alongside their male counterparts. The gender balance has created a much calmer and more productive working environment, where varied perspectives and a more well-rounded analysis of the issues all lead to improved decision making and better overall organisational performance. So forget about the stereotypical geeky male maths graduate when your next tech position comes up; the data powered advertising industry has huge appeal for women with higher math qualifications – so make sure you include female candidates in the interview process and your business will benefit as a result.

This article first appeared in The Wall, part of the Brand Republic Group.