Big Data and Women Leaders: A Fresh Perspective

big-data-eyeIs “Big Data” a fad? I recently heard someone claim that it was, and all I could do was shake my head in disbelief.

Big Data is definitely not a fad.  People are talking about it all the time, everywhere because Big Data IS all the time, everywhere. As the power of computers and data analysis continue to grow by leaps and bounds, Big Data will become an increasingly important part of our world and our lives. Even if the term “Big Data” goes by the wayside, the reality is that Big Data is going to be with us until the day we die.  For the time being, it’s like an old-fashioned gold rush, and the undeniable benefits seem to be around every corner. Case study after case study shows us how using data wisely unlocks the door to better productivity, improved customer satisfaction, higher margins – the list goes on.

So if Big Data is here to stay, how do women fit into the picture? Is Big Data a threat, or an opportunity, for women in leadership roles?  My feeling is that the Big Data paradigm shift has the potential to be hugely positive for women, because women leaders and Big Data share an important quality: the ability to provide a new perspective and “transcend the obvious.”

When looking at the historical exclusion of women leaders from the boardroom, we’ve almost always defined this as a problem, a malady, something to be fixed or rectified. Call the diagnosis the “absence of women.” Make no mistake, the numbers still suggest an ongoing problem. Forbes reports that a mere 2.4 percent of Fortune 500 Company CEOs are women. European countries, from Finland and Spain to Sweden and France, are considering legally mandating the number of women executives in major corporations. However, I’d like to offer a different perspective. Instead of being a purely quantitative problem to be solved by adding x number of women to leadership roles, the lack of women leaders is a monumental opportunity to be uncovered and exploited.

Why is it so important to make a distinction? Because solving problems generally leads to incremental improvements in the status quo. Exploiting opportunities lead to paradigm shifts in the way things are done, a.k.a. genuine progress.

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