From ‘Truth or Dare’ to ‘Truth and Dare’

Anyone who has been at the Joint Statistics Meetings (JSM) or other professional statistics conferences will have seen dozens of sessions titled “In honor of.” Rarely are those words “In honor of” followed by a woman’s name. This article addresses both the why and the what to do about it, so the contributions of women become as visible as the contributions of men.

It was 30 years this past July that I stepped onto the Carnegie Mellon Campus to start my career as a statistician. Now, after books and many other publications; Youden and teaching awards; several editorships; heading the statistics group at Duke; being an ASA Fellow; NIH, NSF, and NAS review committee service; and many administrative positions later, I’m still here, kicking and screaming.

I want to share my thoughts about how to be this persistent with those of you who are early in your careers, even though there will be points in your life that you may want to jump—jump to selling real estate, to managing a Trader Joe’s, or maybe even to being an Uber driver. First, though, I want to talk a bit about diversity and why it is so important that we get even more women to choose statistics and data science, and to stay in statistics and data science.

Every other year or so, Amstat News publishes an update on gender balance in activities of our profession. Suffice it to say that statistics and data science are in good shape relative to math and computer science, but at the same time, we have seen a slowing of growth in the numbers of women during the last 5 to 10 years. My worry is that as our profession becomes more and more computational, statistics will fall backward as did computer science.

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