Updated: Nov 10, 2020
The girls + data team went virtual this year — hosting a variety of events focused on data visualization, data ethics, predictive analytics, and more!
girls + data goes virtual!
We started 2020 strong with a plan to teach 11 in-person events across the nation in addition to launching 3 girls + data chapters in Atlanta, GA, Madison, WI, and Memphis, TN who would also host local, in-person events. The team was prepared to meet all of our 2020 goals, including teaching a total of 1,000 students by the end of the year.
Then, in March, COVID-19 hit, requiring us to postpone our in-person events indefinitely. As the pandemic forced us to change gears, it also accelerated our Summer 2020 plans to provide virtual learning opportunities. Virtual events had always been on our roadmap, but without in-person events, the curriculum team was able to hit the ground running. We launched our first virtual event in less than 3 weeks, followed by 6 more through August.
As tech-savvy as our team is, we still had to settle into a “virtual groove” by researching the most effective ways to teach students online. Ultimately, we discovered new methods to inclusively teach students with diverse needs online and across different time zones, while continuously developing new content.
We hosted a variety of engaging events and panels focused on data in healthcare, design, privacy and ethics, data visualization design, and more. These 7 events drew crowds of 156 middle school-aged girls.
the case for data privacy + ethics
Our Director of Event Operations, Becca Nock, led the volunteer team through rapid curriculum development which aimed to provide a variety of programs to participating students. One of my favorite virtual events was “Data Ethics + Privacy,” a topic that is so critical for kids to understand as they grow up in our digital age. It was during this event that the students were introduced to social engineering, data privacy acts, and digital fingerprinting. My favorite “lightbulb moment” was when students understood the risks of social engineering -- that leaving “digital crumbs” of personal information across the internet can make it easy for people to guess their security questions. My hope is that students will think twice about sharing personal information so publicly.
we love our sponsors!
Since August we have kicked off a busy fall partnership with Google Cloud and wrapped up our 2020 partnership with ThoughtSpot, a data analysis application. In each of these events students received hands-on experience with data visualization and predictive analytics tools. They also were able to meet role models and industry leaders in a variety of industries and data careers who spoke about how they use data in their everyday lives, but aren’t “coders.”
A few of our favorite guests include Cindi Howson, Chief Data Strategy Officer at ThoughtSpot, Shelley Fussman, a Sales Engineer from Looker, now part of Google Cloud (hear why Shelley loves to volunteer with girls + data here!), and Paola Johnson, the Head of Community at ThoughtSpot (hear from Paola in the video below!).
"Being a proud Latina in technology, it's an incredibly rewarding experience being able to contribute first hand in nourishing the talent pipeline of the future."
— Paola Johnson, Head of Community at ThoughtSpot
telling a story with data using ThoughtSpot
With ThoughtSpot, the girls learned about how data visualizations can make it easy to understand a data set and how the ThoughtSpot technology gives users the ability to type questions and receive a visualization as an answer. Paola Johnson's event coordination was flawless, resulting in 32 students learning and a participant NPS score of 8/10 and 80% of the students saying they would attend another event. We love our ThoughtSpot partnership because our values align -- both ThoughtSpot and girls + data feel strongly about making data accessible and able to be understood by everyone, even though we execute our values in different ways.
predicting top songs with Google BigQuery ML!
Our two remaining virtual events of the year are sponsored by Google Cloud. It’s our 3rd year of partnership with Looker (now part of Google Cloud). While we will miss our end of the year dance parties in the New York, NY office, we’ve substituted them with a Predictive Analytics virtual data camp in which students use GoogleBigQuery ML to analyze a Spotify data set in order to predict Billboard Hot 100 charts based on different attributes of songs such as danceability or valence (the positivity of the song). We will also integrate data ethics into our Predictive Analytics workshop because it's so important we teach responsibility with artificial intelligence (AI) and why it’s important for us to understand bias in data.
a moment of gratitude
While there’s no clear end in sight for COVID, we are still so thankful for our partners and sponsors. As the Founder and Executive Director of girls + data, I’m incredibly grateful for a dedicated team of social media, operations, and curriculum volunteers who, in the middle of a pandemic, were able to pivot 180 degrees and will have successfully executed 13 virtual programs by the end of 2020.
looking ahead at 2021
We do plan and hope to go back to in-person events, but the new #saferathome lifestyle has allowed us to stay true to and accelerate our strategic roadmap. We are still on track to launch our asynchronous eLearning portal for students in early 2021, which will allow us to reach even more students and provide even more learning opportunities. Content will include hands-on and webinar style mini-courses that we are continually adding to and we will begin by walking students through how to download free analytics software, connect to data sets, and dive into advanced data analysis such as geospatial analysis (mapping).
To stay up to date on the progress of our new programs, please visit www.girlsplusdata.org and sign-up for our newsletter.