WiDS Conference Shines Light on Advances for Women in Data Science
With an increasing number of degrees awarded in data science each year, women in analytics are quickly moving away from having been underrepresented to thriving in leadership roles.
Held at Perry World House for the first time in three years, the Women in Data Science (WiDS) @ Penn Conference was both a busy and buzzing venue for the standing-room-only event that focused on inclusion and innovation. Presenters, speakers, students, and faculty were rigorous and optimistic in challenging the perception of who is doing what in this exciting field.
The conference was co-sponsored by the Wharton School and Penn Engineering. WiDS elevates women by providing inspiration, education, community, and support. Held on February 3, the conference featured high-profile industry keynote speakers, academic panel discussions, presentations of student research findings, and networking opportunities.
Student presenter Sarah Hu, W’23, a Wharton senior studying statistics and finance, was a football analytics intern with the Philadelphia Eagles and previously worked with the New York Knicks and Detroit Lions. Hu demonstrated how the use of metrics is providing effective player evaluations that teams can use for game-planning.
Her current research is focused on the role of cornerbacks, whose role is to defend the receiver. She explained that traditional metrics for this position include yards, touchdowns, and receptions allowed, but these fall short in quantifying their role in preventing the quarterback from targeting a receiver.
Hu created an evaluation method for cornerbacks and wide receivers resulting in a new way to quantify those players’ route performance. This method makes it easier to find undervalued players and to optimize cornerback and wide receiver matchups.
“I was so excited to talk about the application of data science in football,” Hu said. “There are very few women working in statistics. The WiDS conference warmed my heart because it is great to feel we are all in this together.”
Student presenter Joanna Yang, W’24, GEN’24, a Wharton junior, is studying statistics and finance with a minor in computer science while also pursuing a master’s degree in data science.
Yang is president of the Wharton Analytics Fellows program and a past participant of the Analytics Accelerator, which is a program that connects undergraduate and graduate students who are interested in data science to corporations with business problems.
Yang and her team set out to quantify customer complaint data at McDonald’s. Their presentation detailed how they were able to provide the company with workable recommendations for efficiently mitigating complaints.
“The conference was an amazing experience,” Yang said. “There was direct value for me in presenting my research. But hearing and meeting the keynote speakers and being able to ask them questions about data science was great!”
Founded in 2015 at Stanford University, WiDS encourages women from around the world to connect with one another, form local and regional networks, and promote an inclusive and diverse community within the rapidly expanding field of data science.