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Aug 31, 2017

The goal of Carey Anne Nadeau, founder of Open Data Nation, is to “bring expertise in open data and data science to bear on the most pressing urban issues.” What compelled her to start the company was that she “wanted something to exist that just didn’t exist.” She was frustrated, dissatisfied, and complaining. The industry tended to be a “boys’ club,” and she experienced this firsthand when she was getting paid significantly less than a male peer. “The structures that already existed were not supportive to my growth,” she says. When told by a friend she should just “do it herself” she found the inspiration to start her own business. She chose to focus on using data science for societal benefit – to improve health and safety in cities – and become a female role model.

At one point, her entire company was female. This did not occur intentionally, but because it was mostly women who were motivated to do data statistics for the betterment of our society. Hence the title, “the future is female.” Carey Anne sees “a lot of opportunity for women to have a greater role. When they do, businesses see a lot of benefits.”

However, because her industry is still a “boys’ club,” Carey Anne is very aware of how she can be perceived. When she meets with new clients, talks about her value proposition, and lets her audience know she’s an MIT data scientist and city planner, they are often taken aback. Their reaction is, “What? That can’t be.” Knowing that have people have questioned or doubted a young, female entrepreneur’s standing in the industry, she suggests that one be very aware of people’s possible predispositions with respect to race, age, ethnicity, etc. – even whether a man has a beard.  

Carey Anne sees data’s role in business as helping think about, anticipate, and prepare for the future, not just as means of reviewing the past. For example, she will ask clients, “What pain points are you overwhelmed with?” to gain an understanding of how to get ahead of the problem.

Carey Anne does believe “the future is female,” but she is not saying the future is not male. It is not a zero-sum game. In her own experience, her male and female advisors offer divergent, but complementary, business-building help and insights. Where men are very focused on the current business and have opened boardroom doors, women have pushed more aggressively about how to make money. They “are really scrappy, looking for another angle, they don’t pigeonhole,” she says. At the same time, it is often a female characteristic to offer love, appreciation and support, and Carey Anne hopes that men, too, see themselves as “examples for others in the way we can all live our lives with more love and more happiness.”

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