Why Singapore needs more women in data science?

In a nation that hosts great data connectivity and a thriving business ecosystem, Singapore is seen as an ideal place for analytics and data science-based companies far and wide to set up shop

The data science industry in Singapore is growing at a rapid pace with advancements in technology to support a Smart Nation. This industry alone is reported to contribute at least S$1 billion (US$730 million) per year to Singapore’s economy, and the regional big data and business analytics services worth is expected to reach US$27 billion by the year 2022.

Despite this optimism, being a candidate-short market impedes this prospective growth as Singapore continues to experience a lack of local talent within data science. We spoke to Ashley Baker, once based in our Tokyo office, but now Principal Consultant of Huxley Singapore, who shared his thoughts below.


Why is this so?

  1. STEM roles are seen to be ‘gendered’

According to a World Economic Forum Report on the Future of Jobs, the top 20 job roles in increasing and decreasing demand across industries are very gendered. These jobs include cyber, data science, and robotics engineering. Largely due to digital advancements and COVID, these jobs are likely to change significantly by 2025.

Considering International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month, organisations have understood that more can be done to improve the gender gap in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields across the globe, and Singapore is no exception. However, Singapore remains competitive in this aspect as the proportion of women pursuing university degrees in these areas has been increasing, according to the latest available statistics from the Ministry of Education. Based on the combined university intake data from 2019, women accounted for 41%of the cohort in STEM courses, up from 38% in 2017.

  1. More schemes implemented to encourage local hires

While Singapore is known to be a global hub that attracts talent from all over the world, the government has implemented a regulation for foreigners in Singapore, on dependant's passes, to have a work pass to work here, instead of just a letter of consent. This means that employers will need to apply for an Employment Pass (EP), S Pass or work permit for them, and the relevant qualifying salary, dependency ratio ceiling and levy will apply. More on this can be found in a recent article published by our local news publisher, The Straits Times.


  1. What are some strategies that organisations are taking?

Billions of dollars are spent on unconscious bias training, gender decoding of job adverts, mentoring, and sponsoring women in STEM roles and careers. These strategies can be effective, but the slow progress of them is unable to keep pace with the demand and speed of change. As an example, the number of women in STEM (women graduating in core STEM subjects) has only grown from 21% of the workforce in 2016 to 24% in 2019.

Business as usual is not an option. These solutions are simply more creative ways of trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. Instead, we need bold and innovative change applied to the jobs and economies of the future.


  1. Did you know that the pioneer of Data Science was a woman?

I attribute my success to this - I never gave or took any excuse.” – Florence Nightingale

Nightingale is renowned for her career in nursing, but less well known for her pioneering work in medical statistics. But it was her statistical skills that led to her saving many more lives. Nightingale was one of the first female statisticians and developed an early passion for statistics. She was also an expert in disease outbreak monitoring, pointing out the need to standardise datasets before comparing them. Understanding those datasets can be difficult to visualise, so she devised a novel graph to illustrate the impact of hospital and nursing practice reform on army mortality rates.

 Applying this to current situations, one of the biggest challenges in monitoring the COVID-19 pandemic has been the lack of standardised datasets experts can compare on the number of people infected. Today, graphs also remain one of the most effective ways to understand the effects of health care interventions, including those used to illustrate the effectiveness of physical distancing to curb the spread of COVID-19.

  1. Data scientists have learnt valuable lessons from Nightingale’s achievements and track record of successes: Choose to tackle the problems that matter most.
  2. Involve yourself passionately in the process of gathering data.
  3. Data on its own is not enough.
  4. Collaborate for greater impact.


How should we move forward?

As in many STEM disciplines, women in data science are still fighting for equal recognition. Singapore is at the heart of Asia and aims to become a big data hub of the continent. The country has a robust information technology infrastructure, global connectivity, and capability of hosting and processing a massive amount of data. It is also a hot-spot for data storage and processing and is ranked the fourth-largest market in the Asia-Pacific for internet data centres behind Japan, China, and India. It has also been chosen as one of the destinations to house data by internet giants like Google, Facebook, and Amazon.

If you require support or are ready to take on a challenge in the data science sector, fill out the form with your details below or upload your CV using the button below to be shortlisted for a suitable role.

Get in touch

Whether you’re a professional looking for a job or a business seeking highly skilled talent, the team at Huxley are here for you.


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