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This week (23 Nov – 27 Nov) is Women in Data week, where we come together to celebrate the fantastic women working across the data science and analytics industry. 

Data science and analytics is booming as more businesses recognise the value that an analytics function can deliver, by translating complex information into simple and actionable insights that drive improvements. Yet with men outnumbering women in the profession by 3:1 we know there is some way to go in increasing the representation of women in these roles. 

Women now make up 43% of our data talent at M&S, which is an improvement on where we have come from but is not at the level of equality we are seeking. A big part of how we are working to emerge stronger the other side of the covid pandemic under our Never the Same Again programme, is our drive to establish a culture that places digital & data at the heart of our operations. This will enable us to be more responsive and agile to changes in consumer behaviour, and its vital that we have a diverse pool of talent in data roles so that we truly represent and best serve all our customers.

Angela Lillis's 2019 feature billboard following her induction into the Twenty Women in Data & Tech.

We are proud to have a pool of talented women in this area, such as our Head of Loyalty Danielle Papagapiou who runs our Sparks loyalty scheme, or Angela Lillis, a Data Insight Manager in Clothing & Home, who last year was inducted into the Twenty Women in Data & Tech showcase (and featured on her very own billboard in the process!). 

Having started my career at M&S in stores, I have now worked in data related roles for the last 10 years before moving into my current role as Head of Enterprise Data. I feel privileged to have been asked to join the Women in Data judging panel this year, where we have the unenviable task of picking out and recognising just twenty of the fantastic women playing pioneering roles across our industry. 

Our Data Fellowship programme (in partnership with Decoded) is just one of the ways in which we are looking to upskill and boost internal talent. The course teaches participants how to harness cutting-edge data analytics tools such as Python and affords successful learners a fully accredited qualification in Data Analytics. Encouragingly, over 70 women have enrolled on the programme so far from all areas of the business, after it launched a little over two years ago. One of these women is Rebecca Galloway, whose impressive development I have seen first-hand as her mentor over the last few years.

Having joined us on the Logistics and Supply Chain Graduate Scheme in 2017, Rebecca soon moved into a data role (within the exciting Food Data Science team) and gained a place on the Fellowship course. She’s a fantastic example of how we are upskilling our colleagues and driving greater representation in our data function. 

Go to @MandSnews on Twitter to see more of our tweets celebrating our amazing women in data stars

Having a number of female role models in M&S is a great place to be to show others the pathway to success, and we are putting the building blocks in place to ensure we empower more women into the data field along the way, as well as partnering with other organisations through Women in Data to push the agenda forward. 

The more women we have that are passionate and skilled in data, the better chance M&S has of thriving in a very digital future.