Art, Science and Diversity in Analytics

Mary Owusu leads the analytics and organic search disciplines at Eric Mower + Associates. Throughout her tenure in digital marketing and analytics, Mary has been the strategic force behind the success of the digital campaigns for many regional, national and international brands.

An avid learner, Owusu is also a professor of digital marketing at the Wehle School of Business at Canisius College and was recently named to the Buffalo Business First “40 under 40” list. She is headlining the Digital Analytics Association Women in Analytics lunch at the eMetrics Summit, and here shares her likes and dislikes about the current state of analytics, as well as her thoughts on being a woman in the industry and advice for increasing diversity.

Q: When was the first time you realized it was different being a woman in analytics and what made you realize this?

MO: I attended a major industry conference and noticed that there was a very small fraction of female speakers, and in terms of racial diversity, there was one black male speaker. More than surprised, I was confused — and I left with an overwhelming feeling of “Maybe, I don’t belong here.” It was then that I began researching race and gender inclusion in the field and learned that there was a strong and significant disparity. Rather than languishing in that reality, I decided to make shift happen by putting myself out there as a speaker. I am incredibly introverted, but I continuously push myself to get up on stage and make sure that I am part of the diversity and inclusion story.

Q: Why analytics? What do you love about it? Other than the lack of gender diversity, what do you most dislike about it?

MO: Why analytics? My father is a physicist — I once told him that physics is common sense made complicated. He didn’t laugh. I just couldn’t wrap my mind around why the simple things we do every day could be mangled into “physics equations” and made so damn complicated. I now know that physics simply made sense to him — just as analytics fits me like a glove. Both are logic-based sciences. I love analytics because it’s logical and grounded in math. It aligns perfectly with my very linear way of thinking, and it gives me permission to say, “That doesn’t make logical sense” and be right!

What do I dislike? Digital analytics is a relatively new field because the “digital stuff” of today is relatively new (think: apps, our dependence on mobile devices, complex websites and platforms). There are very few guidelines regarding what differentiates a good analyst from a poor one. There are still analysts who data-dump without addressing insights, learnings or next steps. That’s the art part of analytics. And unfortunately, some analysts are unable to marry the science and art effectively — which can reflect poorly on the field as a whole.

Q: What recommendations do you have for increasing diversity/equality in the field of analytics?

MO: To me, the answer is opportunity and storytelling. The path to inclusion requires the partnership and the commitment of both the privileged and the unprivileged. Each person has a story to tell, and a connection to make to the other. And we all must embrace the discomfort of seizing the opportunity to open up to each other in order to build a more inclusive future for our field.

Q: If you could say one thing to women at the start of their careers in the analytics industry, what would it be?

MO: Find an industry mentor and join industry networks. Then show up consistently, participate often, take notes and apply them. You cannot learn or grow if you live in a world of one.