Elisa Sai | Capgemini Invent
The devil is in the detail, and the detail is in the data...
This week's interview is fascinating as we find out more about the gender inequalities in healthcare. And who better to give us insight than Elisa Sai - Senior Director, Data & Analytics at CapGemini Invent. Elisa has worked in data analytics, within the public sector for her whole career and was involved in the recent partnership between Capgemini invent and Women in Data® as they published the paper: “Data-driven action to close the gender health gap”
The partnership and paper were created to understand the role that data plays - and could play - in improving women's health outcomes - it's an incredible document and we urge you to give it a read! But before you do, hear from one of the experts! Elisa's focus and approach is so refreshing and inspiring!
HI ELISA, THANKS SO MUCH FOR TAKING THE TIME TO TALK TO US ABOUT YOUR JOURNEY INTO DATA! CAN YOU PLEASE START BY TELLING US WHAT IS YOUR CURRENT ROLE AND HOW DID YOU ARRIVE AT THE WORK YOU ARE DOING?
I’ve worked in data analytics and the public sector for my whole career. I studied for a PhD in the history of art, but realised that academic life was a bit too solitary for me. I applied for a job with a consulting firm and by chance one of my first projects was working with analytics, at a time when data science wasn’t very well known. Back then, there were few people with the necessary skills, and because I had some experience working in a data-mining team as a graduate, I ended up managing the project. And that’s how my career in data analytics began.
WHAT ARE YOU PASSIONATE ABOUT?
Data and AI are fascinating – the way you can draw insights from data and the impact that can be made by driving appropriate actions. My work is focused on the public sector, where it’s possible to have a positive impact on people’s lives.
I also care deeply about coaching and mentoring, which I see as part of team development. I love having a team around me that is empowered and inspired, so personal development is just a natural conversation. In fact, I also see it as reverse mentoring because I get so much out of it in terms of seeing from other perspectives.
CAPGEMINI AND WOMEN IN DATA RECENTLY PUBLISHED A PAPER "DATA DRIVEN ACTION TO CLOSE THE GENDER HEALTH-GAP" WHAT CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT THAT?
Capgemini’s partnership with Women in Data® has been a fantastic experience. There has been a lot of discussion recently about gender inequalities in healthcare and we felt we could contribute to that, applying a data lens.
Together we held a workshop with about 30 senior female professionals in the field, facilitated by Women in Data®. We looked at the data lifecycle, from collection to consumption, and examined the gaps in each area and what the possibilities were. The thinking that came out of the workshop formed the basis for this paper, which itself is intended as a basis for further discussion. Women in Data® is now looking at how it can take forward actions to address the issues raised, and I hope to be a part of that process as it progresses.
YOU SPOKE ABOUT DATA COLLECTION AND DATA CONSUMPTION. TALK US THROUGH THE INEQUALITIES THERE?
Research shows that women can sometimes lose out from a healthcare perspective and have poor healthcare outcomes. There are varying reasons for that, but one we discussed is that some illnesses affecting only women have not been studied as deeply. Endometriosis is a good example. We heard that it can take seven or eight years on average for a woman suffering endometriosis to be diagnosed.
If you think about where we get data from, it’s often from clinical trials. But the participation of women in clinical trials is not as representative as it should be – 50 per cent of the population does not translate to 50 per cent of trial participants. There are conditions or situations that exclude women from clinical trials too, pregnancy being a big one. If you’re pregnant you are often discouraged from participating in a trial and that’s a problem, not only for balanced representation but also because we then lack data about how pregnant women are affected by medications, for example.
But there are other ways to collect data from women. Data can be automatically donated by health-tracking apps, for example, but women have to have confidence that it will be used for the right purposes. In her recent podcast, Caroline Criado Perez, author of the book Invisible Women, has spoken about how in the United States, after the Supreme Court ruling on abortion, there has been a lot of concern around women who have provided data around periods and their health, because of the information that can be drawn from it. Could that information potentially be used against them in a legal context? The lack of clarity in this space does not encourage “data altruism” and the desire to share personal data.
We also discussed how fewer than 20 per cent of data scientists in the UK are women and this number is going down. Data scientists also often work in silos and are not always adequately integrated with medical professionals. There are, of course, physiological differences between men and women, and when data is not disaggregated there is a risk that valuable information is lost. All this has an impact on how women are represented in research.
WHAT CAN BE DONE TO ADDRESS SOME OF THESE ISSUES?
The workshop generated a lot of ideas – for example, the creation of a regulated body that would provide standards on how private organisations work with the data provided. Rules on data collection to analysis could help women feel confident handing over data. The certification would guarantee that a person’s data can only be used for scientific or research purposes.
We don’t have all the answers yet, but having these discussions helps. We’ve seen in other areas how conversations like these can lead to real changes in regulation. This is the first step. I think more work also needs to be done to understand the role of data both in terms of opportunity and risk, and what can be achieved.
WHO IS BEST PLACED TO DRIVE DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION IN AN ORGANISATION?
I think it’s everybody’s responsibility. When we talk about inclusion and diversity, we are not just thinking in terms of gender. It’s about diversity in all its forms, and the recognition of our biases, so we can change our behaviour.
It’s also about recognition that one size doesn’t fit all. For example, I’ve had a lot of discussions around work-life balance and how to help working parents, and that benefits a lot of people. But that’s not the case for every single woman. For me, when I came back from maternity leave, the most important thing was having someone help me progress my career very fast – that’s what I wanted. Sometimes, in the spirit of encouraging diversity, we can end up falling into stereotypes.
FINALLY, CAN YOU LEAVE US WITH YOUR FAVOURITE QUOTE?
“You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realise this and you will find strength” – Marcus Aurelius
I can be affected a lot by events and I need to keep myself in a steady space, regardless of what has happened. So, I like this idea that you can train your mind and have power over what happens within it. Traditionally, particularly in certain fields, women often find they’re the only woman in the room. How do you deal with your thoughts around that situation? It comes back to my passion for coaching and personal development – mastering the ability to control your mind and nourish your thoughts.
Thanks Elisa you rock 🤘
Interview by Charles Hoskins