19 Dec 2016

Gender Information Science

Submitted by geobug

Recently I found myself sitting at a GeoDev meetup, having a beer with some fellow geeks and waiting for the lightening talks to start up. My co-worker, a recent hire who brought some additional and very welcome javascript and web app dev experience to our team, was sitting next to me. She leaned in at one point, watching folks mingle around us. "Why are they all guys?" she asked.

Welcome to the dev community.

I'm so used to it now that I don't even note gender balance in the room, but during one of the trivia rounds I took the opportunity to get a head count. Four of the twenty-two developers present were female. 18%. That's not that far out of the norm.

I actually had cause to run through some of the industry numbers recently. A 2014 survey done by GeoLounge showed that approximately 46% of GIS professionals in this country are female. That's pretty close to even, especially in comparison to the larger collective STEM sciences field where women currently make up only a quarter of the workforce (Landivar, 2013). Unfortunately, if you look at that GIS survey's demographic breakdowns in the higher pay scale roles, the percentage of women starts to slip some: 22% for managers and executives, and 30% for developers.

I came across these numbers while putting together a poster for my office break room for GIS Day, which among other GIS tidbits and activities, included a little blurb on women in GIS. I thought this might interest my office because we buck the trend. Our department of eight awesome GIS analysts happens to be 75% female, and our development crew within that is 50% female. In a world where women in tech are routinely passed over for jobs in favor of male counterparts, I'm quite proud of my employers. And our team unquestionably rocks. I work with some amazingly smart and talented folk.

Working in my own little bubble everyday can make me forget though that, generally speaking, that's not the way it is in the world at large. Until I start counting heads at geo meetups, anyway. And recent national events have led me to spend some time pondering vital role that science plays in our lives, and also gender equality, both in and outside of the workplace. It seems like a good time to talk about women in spatial science.

So I thought I'd share a small pile of links to groups talking about and supporting gender balance in GIS. If you know any others, shout them out.