(Published - 5 December 2019)
The University of the Western Cape (UWC) Department of Statistics and Population Studies launched the Women in Analytics initiative to expose more girl children in high schools to careers in analytics.
The inaugural programme, in the form of a high tea with girl pupils from high schools surrounding UWC and their mathematics teachers, was presented in partnership with data management company, SAS Analytics.
Keynote speaker at the event, Professor Jennifer Priestley, Director: Centre for Statistics and Analytical Services at Kennesaw State University in Georgia, USA, explained to the girls why a career in analytics is so important.
“As we move forward into the fourth industrial revolution (4IR) - which is all data-centered - it is the people who understand mathematics who will be on the frontline of the data revolution. So all of you here at this Women in Analytics event are already well positioned to be successful in the 4IR space,” she said.
She explained to the Grade 11 learners that data was no longer small, static and structured as it was when she was at university in 1985. Data is now massive, unstructured and in motion.
“Most of the files we dealt with in 1985 were measured in kilobytes (KB). Today it is measured in petabytes (1015 bytes of data). Daily, we generate 2.5 quintillion bytes (2.5 million terabytes) of data,” said Prof Priestley.
“It takes a tremendous amount of expertise to work with data of this size and will require more expertise in statistics and programming. But most importantly, mathematics (at school) is the first step. You have to understand the basics of maths to understand data.”
Deputy Dean of the Faculty of Natural Sciences, Professor Gail Hughes, said the event was the perfect opportunity for learners to explore the areas of statistics and analytics.
“Learners have the chance to learn and meet people in the business as these learners are the next generation of analysts and statisticians,” she said during her welcoming speech.
Dr Noma Makapela, the first woman to earn her PhD in Statistics at UWC, and the only qualified statistician at the Western Cape Education Department (WCED), said South Africa is facing a huge unemployment issue. She said choosing a career in analytics or statistics was the right choice, as it is a scarce skill.
“To become a statistician requires hard work, a love for numbers and good grades. This scarce area of work requires more of you,” she explained.
Professor Renette Blignaut, Deputy Chairperson of the Department of Statistics and Population Studies, and Manager of the Masters in Data Science programme at UWC, said a career in analytics is perfect for the data revolution and it will prepare you to analyse data generated from various technology driven fields such as artificial intelligence, computing, astrophysics, genetics, nanotechnology, the Internet of things, and much more.
“Analytics is an excellent career choice; it is a broad field of application. The field offers excellent remuneration, plus it offers flexibility as you can work from anywhere,” she explained.
If you wish to apply to UWC’s programmes related to analytics, visit: https://www.uwc.ac.za
Prof Blignaut encouraged the schoolgirls to apply for NSFAS funding at: http://www.nsfas.org.za