Get the girl to check the numbers

Get the girl to check the numbers

Praxis is delighted to launch a scholarship program today to attract more women to join its data science and management courses.

Astronaut John Glenn was preparing to be the first American to orbit the earth. On the morning of February 20, 1962, in Cape Canaveral, Florida, during the prelaunch checks, he was handed flight trajectory computations. The computers had been programmed with the orbital equations that would control the trajectory of the capsule in Glenn’s Friendship 7 mission from liftoff to splashdown, but he was wary of putting the lives of seven astronauts in the flight in the care of the ‘electronic calculating machines,’ which were prone to hiccups. ‘Get the girl to check the numbers,’ he asked. “If she says they’re good, he told NASA, “I’m ready to go.”

Glenn didn’t know Katherine Johnson, by name. She was one of the first African American women to join NASA’s human-computing team doing most of the complex space flight calculations by hand. Her reputation of meticulousness and zero-error track record was legendry. She double-checked the numbers and gave the go-ahead to Glenn. She and many women before her had made history in the world of mathematics and data science, but surprisingly under-recognized. Ada Lovelace, the daughter of the English Poet Lord Byron, was credited to be the first to write an algorithm way back in 1840.

Fast forward to the sixties when most of the work on computers were done by women, birthing the term ‘software.’ However, since then there has been a steady decline of women in technology. As I look around the data-science class today, I find hardly half-a-dozen girls in an average class size of 35.

There’s plenty of research which proves that that companies with more women in leadership positions perform 53% better in terms of return on equity. It’s common sense that we can increase our economic growth exponentially, if we have more women talent joining the workforce. A diverse team is the bedrock of robust technological solutions as we have many points of view, as opposed to the sameness that comes from less-diverse teams.

However, these are not the only reasons to encourage more women to join technology. It is simply the right thing to do. Praxis today is delighted to launch a scholarship program to attract more women to join its data science and management courses. In our small way we want to make a difference and address the challenges of gender diversity in technology. We strongly believe the more women in STEM will lead to greater women empowerment. As ethics in Artificial Intelligence becomes a critical issue, we are convinced that women will help achieve the goal of ethical AI with their native empathic nature. This is the need; the soft power of women in technology to usher in a new era of growth, prosperity and ethical use of technology.

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