It was in 2015 when Margot Gerritsen was asked to speak at a data conference with not a single other woman on the program that she knew that something had to be done to get women into the field. She tells the story of how WiDS got started, with Professor Russ Altman and host of Stanford Engineering’s Future of Everything podcast.
As she was then Director of the Institute for Computational and Mathematical Engineering (ICME), Gerritsen knew more than a thing or two about data science and became determined to change the male-dominated culture.
This determination led to the creation of the wildly popular “Women in Data Science Conference.” In putting the first agenda together, she was insistent that the conference be not about the problematic state of women in the field, but on the exceptional science of the attendees.
Now into its fifth iteration, with more than 100,000 participants worldwide, online and at satellite events spreading into six continents, Gerritsen and her co-directors of the conference have inspired women across the planet to enter the sciences and provided a platform for them to highlight their work. In addition to the conference, WiDS now includes a datathon, a podcast that Gerritsen hosts, and ongoing education programs. The results have been, quite literally, life-changing for many.