YWCA Hamilton’s Uplift program helps break barriers for women, and for data science

Quick escape link leading to Weather Network websiteQuick Escape Anabelle Ragsag

In a world where data is used, analysed, and sold, Anabelle Ragsag wants to make sure that any digital footprints we leave behind are being used fairly.

Anabelle – a graduate of YWCA Hamilton’s Uplift Program and a former Women of Distinction nominee – is currently doing her PhD through the school of Social Work at McMaster University. She is focusing her studies on data justice: a brand-new area of study that examines the implications of how organizations and corporations track and use our data.

Data justice focuses on the way people are made visible, represented and treated as a result of the data they leave behind online – and whether that treatment is equitable.

For Anabelle, the YWCA’s Uplift program allowed her to dive deep into data science in order to inform her PhD research.

“Data justice is looking at how data can be harnessed to be helpful for the historically marginalized, rather than exacerbating or reproducing social inequalities,” she said. “It’s looking at the dangers of unregulated surveillance, and unregulated data use. Because our laws are unable to catch up, social inequalities are happening in school admissions, in policing, in social welfare – and most often, it is the poor that is more surveilled than others.”

In order to pursue her studies, Anabelle wanted to ensure that she had enough knowledge about data science and how it is used – and that’s where Uplift came in. Uplift’s data science course allowed Anabelle to take a deep dive into data science, in order to better understand the technical side of her research.

“Having this data science background, and having the technical knowledge, I can speak to this issue as a insider. I feel that I can speak to both sides – the technical side, and the social implications.”

The Uplift Program provides participants like Anabelle with the opportunity to reskill or upskill in advanced manufacturing or data science. Dedicated specifically to women and non-binary people, Uplift offers certification training in these fields, as well as and additional supports related to navigating male-dominated workplaces.

Participants are enrolled in tailored certification programs at accredited Ontario universities and colleges. Through Uplift, participants are able to gain job-related technical skills and develop professional experience. It’s offered at no cost to participants, and all training is covered by FedDev Ontario.

Not only does Uplift help women train or retrain to give them a leg up in their careers, the program also provides wraparound support to participants. For example, when Anabelle first joined the program, her husband was overseas and she was caring for her small child on her own at the peak of the pandemic.

“I got so busy and there were so many things happening that I thought I couldn’t finish the program,” she said.

However, working with the YWCA Uplift team, Anabelle was able to pause her studies and apply her previous work to a new cohort of Uplift students.

“Apart from the program being so great, I’m so thankful for that accommodation,” she said. “That was really really helpful, especially during the pandemic.”

If you’re interested in learning more about Uplift, and how you can get involved, please reach out to Kelley Evans at kevans@ywcahamilton.org.

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