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women blazing the data science trail

Some may say that women are from Venus, but our Nataša and Maja are from Mercury Processing Services International and they held a great and interesting presentation on Machine Learning at this year’s Women in Data Science Croatia conference. 

The strong women of tech

Women have always been instrumental in technology development ever since the 18th century. Nicole-Reine Lepaute predicted the Halley's Comet, and Maria Mitchell computed the motion of Venus. Ada Lovelace designed the first algorithm intended to be executed by a computer, and Grace Hopper was the first person to design a compiler for a programming language.

Fast forward to 2019, Katie Bouman recently developed the algorithm that created the first-ever image of a black hole. 

Nowadays, the growing awareness of closing the gender gap in all the aspects and additionally the technological one is bringing more women into the field by each day.

The Women in Tech report: The Facts, the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT), states that women’s involvement in information technology patenting has significantly increased from 1.7% in 1980 to 7.8% in 2010. 

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Sources: commons.wikimedia

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Source: commons.wikimedia

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Source: commons.wikimedia

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Source: commons.wikimedia

A little bit of help came from the Stanford University with their initiative The Women in Data Science (WiDS). It began with the inaugural WiDS conference in November of 2015. When the initiatiors discovered that 6,000+ people participated in the conference online, they realized that they had an opportunity for greater impact, worldwide.

The Global WiDS conference expanded even more in 2018, with 150+ regional events happening in 50+ countries. 

Women in Data Science Croatia

The WiDS initiative found its way to Croatia too in 2018. This year, on the appropriate occasion of the 8th March, a “Women in Data Science” conference was organized in Osijek, which some call the Croatian Silicon Valley.

Supporting our women, and all women in the field, our Nataša Benčić, Senior Product Expert, and Maja Šarić, Product Expert, held a presentation showing their expertise in Machine Learning, a trendy and interesting topic. Especially within the context of the payment industry and fraud prevention because in our company we strongly stand by the fact that each piece of card data and each cardholder must have ultimate protection. 

Source: facebook WiDS Croatia

After using a statistical model based on a simple machine learning algorithm, our company is now working on a more sophisticated machine learning model that will be regularly retrained and maintained internally - and that was the main focus of their presentation.

Their experience was quite positive. With around 150 seats filled, they said everyone was all ears during their presentation and people had many questions related to the topic but also our work. 

Where does the inspiration come from

We asked Maja a couple of questions regarding her inspirations and ideas and here is what she had to say:

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After your great presentation at WiDS Croatia, what was the audience reaction?

The audience was, as you can see in the pictures, mostly female, which shows us the great interest of women in the data science.

After our presentation I had the opportunity to speak with other presenters and some women from the audience, and the reactions were great.

The feedback was that our presentation was very interesting, especially to ones who work in the financial industry but also to the others who are interested to see the usage of the Machine Learning model in different fields of industry.

What inspired you to get into tech?

The tech industry may be the one of the most challenging, inspiring and rewarding industries today. I have always been the type of person who loved a good puzzle and what I like the most is that technology isn’t only about coming up with new ideas – it also involves figuring out how to make those ideas work and coming up with solutions. 

Being a women in data science yourself here at our company, do you think women are supported in this field in general?

Data science is a technical field where women remain statistically a minority, but WiDS has showed that woman indeed have a lot to say. By that I do not mean talking about their home, children and shopping – women bring a lot to the technology table, just as they always have.

Computing and data science are still man’s playground, but the growing awareness is slowly bringing more women into the field.

Would you like to see more of such events in Croatia?

Yes! Such events are a great opportunity to bring together people who share a common discipline or field, and also a great way to meet new people in your field.

Attendees and visitors are able to get together with people from a wide range of backgrounds, whom you may not encounter at your home workplace or institution.

It is a great opportunity to expand your knowledge and find solutions to problems - to talk to people about what they are working on, and they may even give you advice on how to enhance your own work.

Also, a very important reason for attending such events is to present your ideas and work to others and to get feedback on your work from people who have never seen it before and may provide new insight.