PhD candidate and former Equality, Gender and Change PhD Intern in Learning, Teaching and Web Services Division Information Services
Tell us about your background and journey to your current role
My current and past experiences have mostly centred promoting social equality. Currently, I am a Doctoral Researcher at the University of Edinburgh in Social Policy. My thesis, Reconsidering Disadvantage in the United States: An Application of Social Exclusion to ‘big’ American Data, quantitatively examines dimensions of disadvantage that extend beyond a lack of income. I also have Masters degrees in Public Policy and International Relations. In the past, I have worked on policy teams in the United States that advocated for policies related to community development and poverty with a focus on education, affordable housing, and childcare.
Tell us about a typical day at work?
As a PhD researcher, I do not really have a typical work day. When I’m not working on my thesis, I am working with the University of Edinburgh’s central IT division, the Information Services Group (ISG) as the Gender, Equality and Change PhD intern. I am the data lead for ISG’s equality and diversity initiative, PlayFair Steps, that I co-developed and manage. Using my background in data analysis and with a focus on data-driven decision making, I have analysed a gender equality survey that has informed our SMART plan of strategic equality and diversity actions. The plan is specifically targeted for the workplace context that targets areas of technology in which there is an underrepresentation of women.
What is your vision for data innovation and the DDI programme, if you have one?
I am really excited to be in Edinburgh as the DDI programme has been developed and implemented. As a minority woman, I definitely advocate that the DDI programme should focus on the ways in which we can use data to highlight the experiences of underrepresented groups and how taking intersectional approach to all aspects of social change is beneficial.
What are you particularly proud of and what do you look forward to in your field?
I am really quite proud of the work I’m doing just now. In my PhD, I advocate for the most disadvantaged groups by uncovering dimensions of disadvantage that are less explored. I hope to offer a small voice for those who tend not to have one.
In my role as a PhD intern with ISG, I’m quite proud of the success of PlayFair Steps. Partnering and collaborating with various organisations across Scotland to provide opportunities, including training’s and workshops, for women to be successful in developing their careers in STEM really makes me aware of the importance of this work. In the past 3 years, these collaborations have resulted in nearly 30 successful training’s and workshops that were attended by 500 staff members at the University of Edinburgh. The initiative is award-winning and has been recognised across Scotland and the UK.
Do you work with any interesting data sets, technologies or analysis techniques?
In my PhD, I work with data from the United States Census Bureau, the public use version of the American Community Survey. The data could be classified as ‘big data,’ with a sample size of over 2 million! It has been so interesting using advanced statistical techniques on a sample size that big and dealing with the challenges of analysing it.
Amazing! What do you think are the biggest challenges for women and girls in your field?
There’s been evidence highlighting the under representation of women in STEM. Diversity efforts have focused on improving their representation. I think these efforts, though necessary, are incomplete if they do not take an intersectional approach. In my work with ISG, I always advocate taking an intersectional focus to all of our equality and diversity efforts because people at the intersection of various characteristics can be left out of our discussions on equality and diversity. I would like to see us focus more on groups at the intersection of various characteristics to ensure no one is left out of the conversation on increasing representation in STEM.
What would you recommend to women or girls who would like to be you!
Always be willing to embrace change. Sometimes that is incredibly scary. Feel all fears and go for it anyway.
Do you have a fun fact about yourself – and a hero or heroine?
I’m related to my hero. Though she has not worked in STEM, she probably offers me the most support. That’s my mother. In every endeavour I wanted to pursue, including a move alone to Scotland to continue my studies, her support has been unwavering. For that, I’m forever grateful.
I am an intersectional feminist. So it’s important for me to take an intersectional lens in my research as I unpick and understand drivers of disadvantage but also as I champion equality and diversity in STEM.