Not Everyone Can Become a Data Scientist

Why we need to talk more openly about privilege

Avril Aysha

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This one’s going to be short and to the point, because I’m actually quite upset. I’m upset about privilege. Or, to be more precise, I’m upset about how little we talk about privilege in the data industry.

A lot of us act like the tech industry is this golden land of opportunity where everyone can participate equally if only they work hard enough.

To be clear, the first part of that sentence might well be true: there’s plenty of opportunity to go around in the world of tech. It’s something I’ve experienced first-hand— I taught myself Python, landed a job with a tech start-up and doubled my annual income in a single year. Big life transformation is totally possible by making the switch to tech.

It’s the second part of the sentence that I disagree with: I don’t think everyone can access that opportunity equally.

I’ve seen a few social posts floating around the internet recently that either insinuate that:

  1. All you need to succeed is hard work, or
  2. People in industries with lower salaries should just be happy with what they get.

I strongly disagree with both of those statements.

Yes, I worked very hard to complete a Python bootcamp for six months and learned the skills that I needed to succeed. BUT I was only able to do because I live in a country with strong social safety nets: I could access government funding which meant I didn’t have to worry about generating income while doing the bootcamp.

And as for the argument that people in lower-salary industries should just be happy with what they get: my mother works as a nurse. She makes a lot less money than…

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