To celebrate International Women's Day on Friday, 8 March 2019, this week we will be bringing you a series of guest blogs from leading senior females in Data and Analytics. They will be discussing their success, career-defining moments and what advice they would give to another female looking to pursue a similar career. This is what Katie Rushforth, Senior Manager – Enterprise Data & Strategy at Metlife had to say.
Profile: Katie Rushforth is currently Senior Manager, Enterprise Data & Strategy at MetLife Australia where she is responsible for data governance, data management, business intelligence, and data strategy. She has been with MetLife for nearly 8 years in various roles – all related to data insights and analytics.
Katie worked as a consultant and researcher for the University of London and Cardiff University on data related projects. She has always been fascinated by the power of data and is passionate about using insights from data to tell stories and bring data to life. Her PhD was on modelling the impact of private tuition on student outcomes to provide evidence-based recommendations for best practice on one-to-one learning.
She has a strong desire to make a difference and was instrumental in setting up the MetLife CSR Committee back in 2016. She chaired the committee for over two years and is still an active member of the team.
As a woman in data, Katie is keen to encourage more diversity in this male-dominated field. She is part of the first Lean In Circle in MetLife Australia, a small peer group that meets once a month to support women, help them build confidence, gain skills and grow their networks.
What would be the key things that allowed you to get to where you are today and what do you attribute your success to?
Support from family and friends, a strong team, mentors and role models – Despite living on the other side of the world to my family I attribute any success I have had to their support and the support of my friends both near and far. I try never to take for granted being surrounded and supported by a high performing team. I have had a number of mentors who have lifted me up, been a cheer squad and who have also helped me realise and address my weaknesses. I believe that without having a personal cheer squad I would not have had the resilience to work through difficult challenges to succeed.
Drive to make a difference - Hard work and sacrifice – I have a very religious background and was taught the true value of working hard and having integrity to make a difference. A desire to make a difference and those principles of hard work and sacrifice have helped me put my all into achieving my goals.
Understanding your why – One thing that has really helped me to succeed is to spend time finding my purpose and fully understanding my 'why'. At my current employer I had the opportunity to establish and lead the Corporate Social Responsibility Committee, which on top of helping our customers and partners, has enabled me to connect employees to the community and see the positive collective impact we can make.
Have there been any career-defining moments?
There have been a few defining moments inj my career but probably the biggest was the change following my PhD. Up until then, my career had been in academia or consulting through the University of London. When I finished my PhD and made the decision to move away from academia into the corporate world it was very daunting. I had spent a number of years working in a narrow specialised field and I made the decision to apply my skills to financial services a field I knew very little about. It was a very steep learning curve but I was amazed how much I could apply from my previous roles. Making this huge career change and quickly being recognised for fresh ideas and perspectives helped provide the confidence I needed to realise what I had to bring to the table and the value I could deliver.
What advice would you give to other females looking to pursue a career in Data?
Unfortunately for at least the next few years as a female in data, you will almost always be in the minority. Don’t let that discourage you, but rather let it give you the impetus to encourage more women to pursue a data career – diversity is beneficial for all. Be passionate about your field and keep driving for change. Use your village and participate in lean in circles where ever you can, learning from the experience of other women around you. Many women succumb to the inner voice of self-doubt, don’t listen to it, focus on what you have achieved and your strengths. Identify role models and mentors who can advise you on how to navigate the male-dominated data landscape and build on your strengths. If you see gender discrimination yourself, call it out, have the confidence to speak out and make a change; if you have friends or family who have experienced or are currently experiencing discrimination encourage them to call it out and be the support they need to be a voice for change. Work in an environment where you can bring your whole self to work, harness your passions and focus on your purpose.
Join in the conversation on Twitter for this years' International Women's Day using the hashtag #BalanceforBetter