Data For Her scheme for women in STEM

By NUR HAZIQAH A MALEK / Graphic By TMR

THE Centre of Applied Data Science (CADS) has launched its Data For Her initiative to provide free coding lessons to women in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) field.

CADS group CEO and founder Sharala Axryd (picture) said the initiative is also aimed at getting women in the STEM industries, particularly those in global services, and oil and gas (O&G), to embrace analytics.

“We have also engaged with universities to get women in healthcare and science, as well as finance to take up free coding lessons that we will be offering.

“The National Association of Women Entrepreneurs (NAWEM) will be engaging with school students to allow them to learn about coding, just to raise their awareness,” she said at a memorandum of understanding (MoU) signing ceremony between CADS and NAWEM in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.

Axryd added that part of the initiative, with approximately 20 students in each class session, is to find a way to keep women in the workforce even when they have started a family.

“In terms of numbers, there are not many women in the engineering sector, which is fine as not everybody has to be an engineer.

“However, what’s worrying is that whether they will stay in the workforce. Everybody pursues their studies but they stop working when they have a family. As such, we want to make sure that they stay in the workforce and encourage them to do so,” she said.

In Malaysia, the STEM field is dominated by males at 71% in comparison to females (39%).

During the tabling of Budget 2019 last November, Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng said the rise in the number of women in the workforce could increase the nation’s GDP by up to RM9 billion.

“So, instead of constantly looking at finding more investors to boost the GDP, why not look at our own resources? We have a population of about 30 million with almost half of it are women and children.

“Why not we work on that to enable them not to only be in the workforce but also stay,” Axryd said.

She added that encouraging women in the workforce is not the responsibility of the government alone, but all parties, including their families and companies.

“I think this is something that non-governmental organisations, companies like CADS and the government need to work on to make workplaces more family-friendly,” she said.

As part of the three-year MoU, CADS will also build a network of women in data science and have access to female data scientists and executives to potentially work together on research initiatives.

On the other hand, NAWEM will work towards bringing focus groups from industry players and academia.

Both CADS and NAWEM will co-organise workshops, training and other activities to drive the growth of the initiative, as well as to increase women participation in STEM in the country and region.