I pledge to support the democratisation of data and the key objectives there-in.
Objective 1: Tackle the Reversing of Diversity
In the past decade, the focus on diversity and inclusion (D&I) has grown exponentially. With movements such as #MeToo, BLM, disability awareness campaigns, Pride and beyond, businesses and wider society have woken up to the fact access and opportunity cannot only be available to a select few.
Nonetheless, worrying trends show these efforts to be slowing, particularly in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Indeed, McKinsey found 27% of global firms had already shelved D&I strategies by May 2020.
A recent survey by Harnham laid bare the data industry’s diversity issues, including a 70/30% job split in favour of men. The report also states three-quarters of roles are held by white men, while just 37% are aged over 35. And, while almost a fifth of the UK workforce state a disability, just 3.3% of data employees do so. Yet diversity and inclusion still matter greatly and can power business to recovery: according to the Wall Street Journal, the 20 most diverse companies in the S&P 500 achieved higher operating profit margins than the bottom 20 (12% v 8%). The risk of D&I being sidelined is, therefore, a cause for concern.
I will commit to working to stop the reversal of diversity and inclusion initiatives.
Objective 2: Increase employment in key talent pools
DMA Scotland has identified three key pools employers should tap for talent to create a more diverse workforce and bring in wide-ranging data skills.
Pool One: Starting Out (5 To 24)
- Primary and secondary school
- School leavers
The plight of school leavers is recognised. According to ONS figures in September 2020, more than one in eight 16- to 24-year-olds (13%) were unemployed, compared to the UK jobless rate of 4.1%.
The Prince’s Trust found more than one in three young people have “lost hope” of landing their dream job due to the pandemic. Some 44% had lower aspirations for the future11 and this rose to half of children from poorer backgrounds.
While at the beginning of their careers, the learning and development and subsequent life-long contribution of those in Pool One could be enormous.
Pool Two: Academia (16 To 30)
- Undergraduate, graduate, post-graduate
- College students and leavers
As one of the groups most badly affected by the shockwaves of Coronavirus, graduates with an eye on a specific career may suddenly find themselves shifted onto alternative paths.
There is a need to raise awareness among employers of skills that are nurtured and developed in the data field across a variety of courses at undergraduate level and to consider MSc data science courses for potential employees.
Pool Three: Getting On (25 To 60)
- Needing or wanting lifestyle/career change, unaware of choices e.g. ex-military
- Neurodivergent and other diverse groups
Those in Pool 3 make up the vast proportion of the total workforce. They’re seeking a change, often through necessity due to their career being cut short by Covid. They’re the potential hidden heroes of data: pilots forced out of aviation, oil & gas experts fleeing a burning industry, ex-armed forces personnel who’d be ideal in data-driven jobs.
I will commit to helping those in these Talent Pools get skills training and work in the data and marketing sphere.
Objective 3: Neurodiversify the workforce
For too long, the data and marketing industry has focused too much on hiring from a small and homogenous pool of talent.
A wealth of untapped talent exists among a more diverse group of people. This is especially the case for neurodivergent people.
For example, it is the case that many with Asperger’s and autism can far exceed neurotypical people’s performance in data analytics, coding, design, and many other roles in the sector. Similarly, those with ADHD are more adept at utilising creative and unconventional thinking, which can translate into better design and problem-solving.
The DMA’s employment guides for Autism, ADHD and Dyslexia employer guides outline how businesses can—and should—do what they can to offer opportunities to and create better working environments for neurodivergent people.
The DMA also supports the calls from neurodiversity charities for a National Autism Commissioner to improve the prospects for those with autism.
I pledge to support to neurodiversify the workforce, rectify unemployment injustices, and boost economic growth, I will work to increase awareness of the employment gap for neurodivergent people and encourage businesses to improve opportunities and working environments for neurodivergent people.
Objective 4: Identify and plug the skills gap
Too often, data skills are thought of as specialisms in computer science or maths but the lines are increasingly blurred, with the terms often interchanged. Lots of communication roles require data knowledge, for example; still more modern jobs in a range of sectors mean employees need a grounding in Excel.
A thriving data economy requires construction of clear pathways from classroom to boardroom, open to people from all backgrounds. That begins with a debate about what’s data, what’s digital, and how potential employees can understand the difference to advance their careers.
It matters: Experian research shows 80% of firms rank data as one of their most valuable assets, but only a third (30%) have a formal data literacy programme in place. Data was also ranked by employees as the biggest skills gap in the IDM Professional Skills Census 2018. Urgent investment in ongoing training is required from businesses but isn’t always forthcoming: less than a fifth of respondents reported receiving data training by their employer.
I will work to promote data skills development provision with clear pathways from classroom to boardroom.
Objective 5: Demystify data and improve data literacy
Even the word ‘data’ scares off many people who immediately imagine spreadsheets and complex algorithms. This translates into how people think about their data being used by others, too. When it isn’t clear how data is being used, it’s hard to trust that it is being used fairly.
Some professionals are just as cautious: two-fifths of firms polled by Experian believed their workers don’t trust data insights used by their employer. Greater data literacy would doubtless tackle some of these misgivings and misconceptions. Wider acceptance of data’s use in many facets of society would benefit the sector no end.
It will be vital to educate people about the value of data, whether in their personal lives or at work. At present, there’s evidence that even established data skills programmes prefer to label interactions as ‘digital’ when involving the public and even some professionals, to avoid “scaring people with data” as one expert puts it.
This reluctance to teach individuals and workers about data as a force for good must be tackled through continued education and advocacy.
I will advocate for programmes to improve data literacy among the general population, and encourage businesses to do the same for their workforce.
Objective 6: Build on Scotland’s ethical use of data and AI
Scotland is world-leading in its aims for data and AI and their use in government, business and wider society. Indeed, the recent launch of the Scottish Government’s AI Strategy for Scotland attracted praise from across Europe, the USA, New Zealand, and beyond.
The benefits of these policy aims reach every area of society, from delivery of public services, increased connectivity and access; improvement of commercial products and services; growing employment opportunities and skills development opportunities; and bolstering economic growth.
DMA’s Value of Data campaign has worked with Government Ministers, MSPs, educational and research institutions, businesses and individuals to explore how ethics and values stay at the heart of how we develop and use data, AI and tech more broadly.
A plethora of issues have been discussed and debated, but there is much more to explore, and parliamentarians must play a key role.
For Scotland to continue its great work in this area, and to stay ahead of the curve, I will work to ensure legislation and regulation creates grounds for innovative and ethical development and use of data.
Objective 7: Boost international data trade
Scotland, and all nations of the UK, are at an interesting point in their development of relationships around the world. While keeping close ties with Europe, the Scottish Government has proposed expanding its diplomatic footprint further afield.
International engagement and trade are vital for the success of the data industry in Scotland. Good links with nations and multinational bodies across the globe deepen the talent pool, increase competitivity and widen customer base.
Nonetheless, high standards of privacy and protection and ethical use of data must remain at the core of international trade, so that businesses can flourish and individuals’ data is protected.
It is for this reason that the DMA, the Federation of European Data & Marketing Associations (FEDMA); and the Global Data & Marketing Alliance (GDMA)—representing trade bodies from 30 countries and over 15,500 business organisations worldwide—have developed Global Privacy Principles which seek to promote a global approach to improving standards and protecting data.
When looking to improve Scotland’s international trade links in the digital and data sphere, I will work to ensure the spirit of high standards and protection of individuals’ data is at the heart of any international relationships and agreements.