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Women and digital jobs: a love-hate affaire?

Published on
24 January 2019

In the digital sector, 33% of jobs are filled by women and only 16% when looking at technical jobs such as developers (source: Syntec Numérique, French digital ecosystem union). At 24 years of age, Zineb Bennis, a graduated of GEM’s Advanced Master’s in Big Data, is one of a few women to work as a data scientist in the industry.

The Grenoble Business Review will be publishing a series of articles that share the voices of women in digital sectors. The goal is to help overcome biases shared by both companies and students.

In 2022, around 212,000 jobs will have to be filled in the French digital sector according to Dares (France Stratégie and la Direction de la recherche, des études et des statistiques). As women are under-represented, the question remains how to encourage gender parity in such technical sectors.

Zineb Bennis is a recent graduate of the Advanced Master's in Big Data, which delivered by GEM in partnership with Ensimag (Grenoble INP school for IT and applied mathematics). Upon graduating in 2018, she had a variety of offers on the table to pursue her choice career in data science.

Since last October, she has worked at Fives CortX, the digital subsidiary of the Fives industrial group, which specializes in the storage, analysis and processing of data for industries related to steel, aluminium, machine tools, glass and logistics. "My job is to implement algorithms for predictive maintenance in industrial machines. The algorithms follow the deterioration of machines and provide alerts before machines break down in order to optimize production and maintenance." Her yearly salary: 38,000 euros.

The growth of data science

"The field of data analysis and prediction is huge. It impacts all sectors: sales, industry, banking, healthcare… The sector is growing and offers many opportunities," underlines Zineb. Despite this positive outlook, Zineb was not initially drawn to this field. "My first year at Ensimag covered a wide variety of topics. During my second year, I specialized in engineering for information systems with a focus on developing. During an internship as an assistant developer I quickly realized I would be bored and instead discovered predictive maintenance which is a field that really piqued my interest. I went for the Advanced Master's in Big Data in my third year at Ensimag because it offers an interesting combination of technical and management training. I believe it's essential to know how to implement what we learn."

"Many women like to code, they just don't know it"

"Overall, women are usually intimidated by digital jobs. Society labels these opportunities as jobs for geeks who have lived in this universe since a young age. But it's just cultural conditioning. Women are often quite perfectionist in terms of visual aspects, design, ergonomics…. Ensimag tries to mix genders in its training programs. We were 13-14% women. In the Advanced Master's we were only 4 women out of 20 total. And yet the Advanced Master's is very 'open ended'. We don't just study coding. We study math, law, management and data governance. This is one way we can encourage interest in this field. I'm also convinced that many women like to code, they just don't know it. It was only thanks to my internship as a data science consultant that I identified my strong interest in predictive maintenance. I never thought I would find so many job offers around Lyon! The Advanced Master's degree in Big Data is definitely an advantage when looking for a job."

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