Women in Big Data


In Switzerland, fewer than half of all STEM subject (life sciences, technology, engineering, and math) students are women. It is important to have an open and broader discussion on building, advancing, and maintaining careers for women in STEM fields and other disciplines that rely on technology and maths. The present cross cutting activity intends to analyse the position of women in the field of big data technologies together with all projects of NRP 75.

Portrait (ongoing research project)

In the recent decade, a variety of public and private initiatives have addressed the uneven gender distribution with regard to jobs remotely technical. Some focus on offering particular training and mentoring for girls and young female adults so that they are more likely to enter and stay in jobs with technological and mathematical affinities. Yet research also indicates that male dominated and inflexible work cultures refrain women from entering and staying. Media reports also indicate discrimination in pay and promotion as well as sexual harassment in tech firms. The cross cutting activity intends to promote an open and broader discussion on building, advancing, and maintaining careers for women in fields that rely on technology and math.


In Switzerland, fewer than half of all STEM subject students are women. This holds for all levels of university training and is particularly pronounced in computer and information sciences, math, and engineering. Across the globe, women account for less than a third of those employed in scientific research and development; women are less likely to enter and more likely to leave tech-intensive business roles.


The objective of the cross cutting activity is to provide a networking forum to connect women in industry and academia, to learn about career challenges and solutions from each other, to discuss how to excel in Big Data challenges, to collaborate across different disciplines, and to further advance and explore careers in the digital era.


Only a minority of NRP 75 projects are led by women. “Women in Big Data” allows strengthening women in the field and to advance their research and careers. Issues of structural inequality and discrimination unite women’s experiences across all disciplines. This initiative offers a forum to identify patterns, discuss strategies as well as promote each other in exciting and inspiring research. For instance, it will also address how gender biases enter big data research and its applications.


The tangible outcome of this cross cutting activity is to form a platform that supports women in big data research. We envision to start with an international workshop (June 2018, Zurich) which will be a first step with other events to follow-up on. Based on the participants’ feedback and ensuing evaluation of this first workshop, one idea could be to hold further smaller events with a more narrow focus (e.g.hold thematic roundtables with career development foci).

Original title

Women in Big Data

Project leader(s)

  • Dr. Lydia Yiyu Chen IBM Research GmbH
  • Prof. Sophie Mützel, Soziologisches Seminar, Universität Luzern



Further information on this content


Ph.D. Lydia Y. Chen Associate Professor, Distributed System Department Delft University of Technology, The Netherlands

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