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Women's Geospatial Forum

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Innovation blooms from a diverse field of ideas. Moving forward and upward requires opening our minds to concepts beyond what they would imagine on their own.


There is no better way to start a brainstorming session than to allow space for every crazy, creative way of looking at the topic, to give everyone a chance to voice their view.  


A brainstorming success story took place here at Esri in early 2017 when a group of Subject Matter Experts were tasked with building a strategy for tackling the opioid epidemic. This is a monstrous problem in America that is plaguing communities indiscriminately. No one person nor one idea can solve such a complex tragedy.

It required pouring over articles, reading, and researching to come to a place to understand the depth and reach of this epidemic. This problem affects the health of individuals and communities, which required Health and Human Services experts to be called in. Additionally, Public Safety experts were involved to understand the challenges faced by law enforcement and first responders. Because our communities are impacted by this epidemic, experts from State and Local Government were also needed to input their knowledge of how governments and community members play a role in curbing the problem.


By inviting all these experts from diverse backgrounds to the table, we were able to build out a strategy for municipalities to address a growing epidemic in our society. Many organizations are now Fighting against the Opioid Epidemic with these tools.


This is an example of how diversity can bring synergies and the best ideas together to solve complex problems.


Northern Kentucky Health Department Tackles the Opioid Epidemic


Welcoming differences challenges us to grow.


We come to work every day, to contribute our diverse expertise to our organization. We come from different families and have different backgrounds. Our ancestors trickled down their stories, and their experiences to us. What each of us holds within us is unique, and every single one of us brings something of value to the table. Encouraging individuals to bring their unique perspective and approach to contribute to the whole instills a sense of belonging. It opens up the opportunity for greater collaboration and innovation, with every interaction and conversation.


Embracing others individuality and differences in perspective allows our organization to fully leverage and benefit from the unique contribution of every person. You never know who may have the next interesting idea, a catalyst success.


Around the world, June is a time to celebrate diversity in the LGBTQ community.  This year is the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in New York City, which sparked the LGBT Liberation Movement.

Taking Pride | 150 Years of LGBT History



How everyone can celebrate diversity daily

  1. Be a good listener
  2. Be open-minded
  3. Seek to understand before being understood
  4. Treat all people with dignity and respect
  5. Allow space for every voice to be heard


Applying these diversity practices to work and life may lead to new successes.

The Esri team is gearing up for the 2019 UC in San Diego, and we're proud to host a series of events that explore how GIS can empower movements for diversity, equity, and inclusion. 


Our colleague, Madeline Schueren, wrote an ArcGIS blog post that details the events at this year's UC and provides additional resources to help you plan your stay. 


Other Things to Help You Plan your UC


See you all in San Diego!



Meg, WeCan Lead


“Not everything that is faced can be changed. But nothing can be changed until it is faced.” -- James Baldwin

In honor of LGBTQ Month, I put together this Story Map celebrating the history of Gay Pride in the U.S. It includes a map of some of the larger Pride events all over the world, so check it out! 


LUNAFEST Film Festival is THIS FRIDAY! Short films by, for, and about women.


For the seventh year in a row, LUNAFEST is coming to Redlands. This traveling fundraising film festival is dedicated to promoting awareness about women’s issues, highlighting women filmmakers, and bringing women together in their communities. Proceeds from LUNAFEST will benefit the missions’ of Zonta Club of Redlands and AAUW Redlands Branch.


Don’t miss this awesome opportunity to celebrate women and support our community!


Where: Esri Auditorium (Redlands)

When: Friday, April 12th

5:45pm - reception in Esri Café

7:00pm - movies begin in the auditorium

Tickets: $35 (donations are welcome)


Check out more information and purchase tickets here: 

This week is the American Association of Geographers (AAG) annual meeting in Washington D.C, and this year, of all years, I wish so much that I was attending. My mom, Dr. Jody Emel, retired from her long career as a professor of geography at Clark University in 2018, and this year she is being honored with two sessions dedicated to her work:


The Eclectic Environmental Geographies of Jody Emel I and 

The Eclectic Geographies of Jody Emel II 


Growing up in the home of a brilliant geographer/feminist/activist/environmentalist/animalist/hydrologist was incredibly fulfilling and never boring. Our house was filled with books on women, industrial farming, indigenous histories, mining, water rights, and so much more. All of my values come from my mother. When I was a graduate student at Clark University, I was even honored to write a chapter in her book, Political Ecologies of Meat. I wish I could be there to see her graduate students talk about her eclectic (and maybe a bit eccentric?) career in geography. Here's a photo of my mum when she was at Clark U, with our old dog Mindy:



Another huge bonus of the AAG this year is the session called Women in Geography, Building Leaders for Tomorrow - Esri's own Dawn Wright will be one of the incredibly talented panelists, and one of my old professors Dr. Hamil Pearsal will be a discussant. It's bound to be an amazing session.


So if you're going to the AAG this year, make sure you hit up these sessions, and take pictures! If you can, post them here for a deprived woman in need of AAG vibes. 

Happy Women's History Month! Over the last few weeks, the Women's Empowerment and Career Advancement Network (WeCan) at Esri posted stories, resources, and more to help you learn about and participate in WHM. To honor women in GIS this month, here's a review of a recently-published book from Esri entitled Women and GIS: Mapping Their Stories. From census experts and ecologists to human rights advocates and more, these women solve global problems through GIS.


To preface, I'm scratching the surface with this book review. Everyone should read the book in its entirety--it's definitely a good kick start to continue your own professional evolution. To pick up a copy on Amazon, click here.


Deep Thoughts 

I can't say enough good things about this book. Yes, I'm an Esri employee, but I'm also a bibliophile dedicated to honest book critiques. This book is easy-to-digest (great for working professionals), and the case studies cover a breadth of disciplines. I wasn't reading a single narrative applied narrowly, which reinforces the beauty of GIS; you can solve many problems with geospatial solutions. 


More importantly, the lessons are universally applicable. Gender is important and it's crucial to keep the conversation of gender equity alive, but this book is not just for women in GIS. As such, I encourage you to share this book with your circle of influence. When everyone is aware of the problems and part of the solutions, we're closer to collective success. 



What's a good book without some inspiring takeaways to write on a sticky note? Here's what I learned: 


  • Overcome Adversity

How many of y'all have heard STEM is too hard for women? I have, and it's an unfortunate opinion that's cuts across cultures and generations. Overcoming adversity isn't a uniquely female experience, but the women in this book use challenges as learning opportunities, not deterrents.


Wan-Hwa Cheng, a GIS and data analyst dedicated to green sea turtle research and conservation, was told GIS is hard. She said, "...growing up in Taiwan, I did encounter people who think men are better than women and [that] women should not receive higher academic degrees but be more marriage-minded." She overcame these challenges and followed her passion to become a celebrated researcher and champion for environmental sustainability. 


  • Be Creative

Even if you think there isn't a strong place for creativity in science, these women refute that notion. Dr. Catherine Ball, an innovator, entrepreneur, and advocate for #dronesforgood movement, always has an artist at the decision-making table. In the book, the authors reference Leonardo da Vinci: " is creative, and scientists always do better work when they approach their problems creatively." 


  • Lift as You Climb 

These women could sit back and revel in their success, but they pay it forward. Miriam Olivares, a GIS research evangelist at Yale, dedicates herself to guiding and educating those who seek to make a difference through GIS and geospatial technology. Her efforts, along with many others highlighted in this book, make it easier for all women in STEM to succeed. 


To pick up a copy of Women and GIS: Mapping Their Stories on Amazon, click here.



News About Women and GIS: Mapping Their Stories

Women and GIS: Mapping Their Stories | Esri Press

Esri Recognizes Women’s Contributions to GIS in New Book | Business Wire  

Esri Press Releases Women in GIS: Mapping Their Stories | GIS Lounge  


Story Maps for WHM

WeCan @ Esri  

Women in GIS: Helping Map a Better World - A story map by Morgan State University 


Other Cool Blog Posts for WHM from Esri 

Happy Women's History Month! 

Happy International Women's Day  


Share how you celebrate Women's History Month in the comments below!



Meg Singleton | WeCan Lead


WeCan @ DevSummit 2019

Posted by JBell-esristaff Employee Mar 18, 2019

WeCan hosted a session at DevSummit called WeCan Share and Connect: Women's Idea Exchange. It wasn't your typical DevSummit meet-up! At the exchange, attendees empowered one another to achieve their goals and build strong careers by sharing what they are doing in tech through casual, 5-minute presentations.

 Attendee holding up a Women and GIS book that she received for presenting.

At around 70 people, the Idea Exchange was standing room only, with attendees lining the back and side wall. There were a variety of fields represented in the presentations: county governments, water departments, the UK Department of Defense, Esri UK, a chapter lead from Women in GIS, Navy Georeadiness Centers, start-ups, consulting firms, developers, and even travelers insurance. One of the presenters offered to be a mentor to anyone interested in coding and asked if anyone would like to mentor her in web application. It was a great place to connect.


After the last session of the day, WeCan hosted a Happy Hour at the Renaissance Palm Springs Hotel where women could meet and continue sharing ideas and encouragement. One attendee commented, "There are no other women on my team, so it's nice to have these events. Thank you!"


WeCan would like to thank Esri Press for donating posters and multiple copies of the Woman and GIS book to give away at the Idea Exchange. We would also like to thank Women in GIS for the framed poster that was signed by the attendees. And of course, WeCan thanks all the women, and men, who attended the event and shared their inspiring and insightful experiences.


WeCan is excited for the next conference event, a women's panel, at this year's UC. Stay tuned to learn more!

Attendees holding posters and books.

Recently, I had the chance to facilitate a WeCan (Women's Empowerment and Career Advancement Network) Discussion Circle about gender-inclusive language in the workplace. In researching the topic, I learned a lot about my own habits, assumptions, and also gave a lot of thought to the importance of being aware of how the words we use can either lift up (or hold back) women, especially in the workplace. For the purposes of our discussion, I was defining inclusive language as:

Language that is free from words, phrases or tones that reflect prejudiced, stereotyped or discriminatory views of particular people or groups.

It is also language that doesn't deliberately or inadvertently exclude people from being seen as part of a group.

It's important to consider that the language we use might unintentionally have the effect of making certain people feel less welcome, even if it is not our intent. We can't predict the personal impact the words we use might have - so, best to err on the side of inclusion!


I introduced the discussion circle with this video - in it, Win Chesson, then an MBA student at Stanford Business School, shares his personal experiences and reasoning why gender-inclusive language matters:


I thought this was a good place to begin, as it starts with some common examples of male-centric language (Chesson talks about the prevalence of terms like "chairman," "manpower" and the ubiquitous "you guys."). He also brings up a question that I thought would be important to address up-front: is this really an important subject, when there are so many other issues facing women? (Hint: YES!). The part I enjoyed most about this video was when Chesson paraphrased the ideas of radical feminist theorist Marilyn Frye to describe how sexism is like a birdcage, made up of many different wires. Individually, any one wire does not contain the bird - it's the collection of the wires that makes the cage.


The group-viewing of the video prompted a lively discussion, and attendees tackled topics like intent vs. result, the 'laziness' of using male-centric language when there are many simple alternatives, tactics for addressing colleagues who exclude with language, and even shared their international perspectives. 


Finally, I wrapped up the discussion by sharing five practical tips on how we can each take steps today to make our written and spoken language more inclusive:







Here are some additional readings and helpful resources on this topic:


These tips can help anyone, regardless of gender, practice more inclusive language. Lead by example, and when you see gendered language impacting your workplace, offer up some of these simple suggestions to correct it. Doing so may have a greater impact on those around you than you know!


wecan women in gis workplace

March 8th is International Women's Day International Women's Day (IWD) has occurred for over a century, with the first IWD gathering in 1911 supported by over a million women and men. IWD is a global day dedicated to celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. It is also a day used to support activities that aim to eliminate the gender gap and elevate the  gender parity.  


WeCan is also doing our part by supporting and presenting the joys of the STEM field to local middle school girls. On March 5th, Dynasty Machado & Jennifer Bell presented at the 25th Annual AAUW STEM conference at the University of Redlands, where over 600 students from the Redlands and Yucaipa middle schools and Redlands’ charter schools participated. Dynasty and Jennifer held workshops discussing how they use GIS in their roles at Esri and how they became attracted to the STEM field. It was a great conference to participate in because the speakers had the opportunity to share their personal life and career experience that influenced many of the young girls perception of the STEM industry.  


The American Association of University Women (AAUW) is the nation’s leading voice promoting equity and education for women and girls. Since its founding in 1881, AAUW members have examined and taken positions on the fundamental issues of the day — educational, social, economic, and political. 


Please check out the Global Women Health Indicator Storymap in honor of IWD!   


Visit International Womens Day to learn more about the special day and how you can do your part. 

March is Women's History Month in the US, meant to honor the long history of women's contributions to social, technical, and cultural progress in this country, and to recognize the struggles women have faced along the way. Take a look at some of the links below, and celebrate in your office, school or home.


Articles, references and Story Maps to check out:

How to celebrate:


There's still work to do

While it is empowering to be recognized, there is still a lot of work to do for gender equality in the US and around the world:


Let's keep lifting each other up, asking for more and making waves in the world!

Over the course of February, Esri celebrated Black History Month by highlighting the outstanding trailblazers and role models at Esri whose significant contributions ripple through the scientific community every day.  Although black history deserves more than just one month out of the year, I wanted to take this opportunity to highlight Dawn Wright's story and impacts in the STEM and GIS community that are, to say the least, worth recognizing. 


I owe a massive thank you to Dawn Wright for the incredible honor of interviewing her for Black History Month about her position at Esri, the experience she has gained throughout her scientific career that led her to this point, and the advice she was willing to share to those of us in the GIS community. 


Enjoy our interview below!



What is your current position at Esri?

I am the Chief Scientist of Esri.


What do you love most about your position as Chief Scientist of Esri?

Reporting to Jack and getting to see his thought processes and passion up close and personal, as well as working across all the many teams at Esri, interacting with so many passionate and talented people, and serving as their science “Force Multiplier.”


How did you find yourself at Esri?

I have been at Esri for 7 years now, having been recruited from my former post at Oregon State University as a professor of geography and oceanography. 

 From Dawn’s post from her Oregon State University blog, which includes the full story behind her transition to Esri:


"Ultimately, one of the biggest reasons that I’ve been happy at Esri is that I still remain an academic, and am charged as Chief Scientist to do so. In fact, I basically do the same things except for having to teach and constantly chase after grant money. I am still doing research, still publishing, reviewing papers and NSF proposals, still advising a doctoral student, doing occasional lectures and workshops, and a lot of science policy/service (e.g., National Academies, NOAA Science Advisory Board, journal editorial boards, etc.). I’m still going to the same academic conferences, helping Esri to be known as a member of the scientific community rather than "just" a software vendor. There have been challenges as well, but the pluses have far outweighed the minuses. Combine all of this with working directly for a wonderful CEO in a privately-owned company that is non-hierarchical, low-key, with, as President Obama once quipped, 'no peacocks, no jerks, no whiners,' and I feel blessed."



What interests you in GIS?

The possibilities and progress that we are making on the 3D front, as well as space-time cubes, and other features that scientists really need such as geoprocessing functions in Pro, Python, & R integration, and the new world of Python notebooks.


What do you consider your top accomplishment?

I have mentored over 100 graduate students and advised them through to the completion of their Master and Doctoral degrees. These are my “academic children."


Is there anything about yourself you'd like to share?

A fun tidbit is that I was an Olympic hopeful in 1980 for the long jump, but a knee injury playing high school basketball ended that dream. And even if I had qualified, the USA boycotted the 1980 Olympics (hosted by the Soviet Union) and NO one was able to go. 


What is the worst advice you've ever received, and what did you learn from that?

Worst advice: “Give up on oceanography and go to business school or law school!”



I had a difficult time with my thesis research for my Master degree at Texas A&M as I was working with some data that was hard to collect and further to understand. It also involved some mathematics that for me were difficult. Despite having a major professor, he was too busy to guide me or offer any real assistance (as this was his first academic job as a young assistant professor). I basically had to teach myself what I needed to do with the help to two senior doctoral students, who were in a different department no less.


Further, I had another professor telling me that what I was trying to do was too hard and that any further and similar studies in another part of the world that I was interested in were going to be impossible – too hard to obtain the data. Despite this I managed to finish my thesis and to defend it. I was told by my major professor that, although I had done a good job putting together a study and defending all by myself, that I had barely passed. He further told me that I should give up on oceanography and go to business school or law school. The “rest,” as they say, “is history,” as my first professional post immediately after obtaining my Master degree was as a seagoing ocean technician, out at sea 6 months out of the year for 2 years, assisting with (and learning about) all kinds of oceanographic science [next slide]. This helped me to get into the great PhD program at UCSB, allowing me to do not only oceanography but geography.


Further, I determined to obtain my PhD if for nothing else than the opportunity to have my own graduate students that I could really guide and mentor properly, never ever neglecting them the way that I had been neglected during my Master degree. At last count I’ve advised over 50 of my own graduate students through to completion of their degrees, and been involved in helping 100s of others.


Moral of the Story: Believe in yourself and NEVER GIVE UP!


Is there a specific black woman from history who inspires you?

Mae Jemison, as the first African-American woman to go into outer space on the Space Shuttle Endeavour (1992). I had the chance to speak to her on the phone last year, which was an absolute thrill, and fun comparing notes as I was the first African-American woman to go into “inner space” in the deep submersible Alvin (1991). And I absolutely adore the story of story of engineer, Mary Jackson, mathematician Katherine Johnson, and mathematician turned computer scientist Dorothy Vaughan as told in the movie “Hidden Figures.” I’ve read that there are astronauts at NASA who had not heard of about the role that women of color played in the success of NASA’s Mercury mission in the early 1960s, especially John Glenn’s orbit around the Earth in 1962. Katherine Johnson is still living at age 100, in Hampton, VA.


What is your advice to women in GIS?

Read the new Esri Press book Women in GIS: Mapping Their Stories, including my Foreword and continue to be inspired!


In honor of Black History Month, the AGU (American Geophysical Union) interviewed Dawn in their Third Pod From the Sun Podcast to celebrate Today's History Makers.  The podcast interview can be found here


Dawn also wanted to share the Let Science Speak video series, which is a 6-part, web-based short film series and activation campaign aiming to call America’s attention to the importance of science in one’s daily life, as well as to the damaging effects of censorship, and the suppression of important scientific data. Let Science Speak seeks to rally public support for scientists and the vital work they do every day.


This public support is important because scientists are now on the front lines of some of the gravest challenges facing our planet, including climate change, ecological degradation, and the loss of biodiversity. And many of them face exceptionally difficult circumstances right now. Not only is science funding being cut or eliminated, but many scientists – especially those working in the increasingly politicized area of climate change – are themselves being attacked in ways we've never seen before. 


Let Science Speak represents a timely opportunity to help the world better understand and see scientists as fellow human beings, as well as how powerful their work is and how important this work is to people’s everyday lives.

The Esri Developer Summit is right around the corner, and women of geospatial sciences will be there!  


DevSummit officially begins March 5 at the Palm Springs convention center in sunny Southern California, and Esri's internal Women's Empowerment, Career Advancement and Networking group, WeCan, is hosting a Women's Idea Exchange for women in development at the conference.   


Join us on March 6 from 2-3 pm and hear what other women are working on, and maybe even share your own work with the community.  


Also, be sure to stop by the Women in GIS (WiGIS) booth. WeCan partners with WiGIS for events, webinars and meetups, so make sure you go say hello.  See you in Palm Springs! 


Lisa Perez Jackson

Posted by RKamau-esristaff Employee Feb 22, 2019

The participants of the Women’s Empowerment and Career Advancement Network group (WeCan) have spent this past month celebrating and commemorating the contributions of women of color, especially black women, to the fields of conservation, GIS, and other social causes. This, the final entry in our Black History Month showcase, honors the work and active legacy of Liza Perez Jackson.

Born February 8, 1962 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Lisa Perez Jackson was adopted two weeks later and raised in New Orleans by postal worker Benjamin Perez and his wife Marie, a secretary. Her mother notes her keen interest in the injustices of social inequality, economic disparity, and environmental issues. Growing up, Lisa vocalized her dismay at the social and environmental cost of pollution of the waterways and canals of New Orleans-- an environmental tragedy resulting from carelessly run oil refineries and unregulated drilling.


 A self-proclaimed “geek”, and never one to back down from doing what she believed in, Lisa put herself on an educational path that would see her graduating from Tulane’s School of Chemical Engineering summa *** laude in 1983 as one of a few black women in her class. After graduating from Princeton with her master’s in 1986, she applied her chemical engineering degree to her work at Clean Sites, Inc.---a non-profit whose mission is to manage environmental cleanup projects. This was followed by her appointment as one of the staff engineers at the EPA’s (Environmental Protection Agency) Superfund program.


By 2002, Lisa Jackson had made a name for herself within the EPA and was appointed as assistant Commissioner to New Jersey’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) in 2002; by 2006 she was Head Commissioner. Prior to her appointment, the NJ DEP was politically divided in a bitter war over how to address the state’s environmental problems while not alienating the chemical companies stationed there who provided jobs but also polluted the state to the point where it was one of the most polluted in the nation. Jackson was unafraid. She went hard after repeat offenders in some of the state’s most polluted areas and put New Jersey on a path to healing by announcing a goal to curb emissions to 80% below 2006 levels by 2050. She protected more than 900 miles of state waterways by using the highest regulations outlined in the Clean Water Act and was a vocal critic of the Bush Administration’s dismissive approach to dealing with environmental issues.


Environmentalist critics did not always laud her efforts, complaining that she was too lenient with big business and developers especially when it came to establishing more stringent groundwater regulations and supervising hazardous waste cleanups. She was so adept at navigating this minefield that she was named chief of staff by Governor Jon Corzine in 2008—a posting that was short-lived due to her nomination to head up the EPA by President-elect Barack Obama that same year. Jackson is the first person of African American descent to serve as EPA Administrator, as well as the fourth woman and second New Jersey native to hold the position.


She went to work with a vengeance, declaring in a written statement on December 8, 2009, that the finding, which declares carbon dioxide and five other greenhouse gases a threat to public health, marks the start of a U.S. campaign to tackle greenhouse gas. In response to this public health threat, she put in place tougher regulations. In many public arenas, she vocalized the belief that the burden is on humans to reverse the damage we’ve done to the planet in order to face off impending, cataclysmic climate change.


On Dec, 27, 2012, Jackson announced that she would be stepping down from her position as EPA administrator citing her belief that the Obama administration would move to support the Keystone pipeline against her recommendation, and she did not want this to occur on her watch. Lisa now works at Apple Inc, and oversees Apple’s environmental issues as vice president of Environment, Policy, and Social Initiatives.

Lisa Perez Jackson’s legacy will be one of demonstrating how immediate environmental action in the face of opposition can spark noticeable environmental change. This makes her a role model to young women of color everywhere: yes, your voice can be heard; yes, your work has value and can improve the lives of affected communities. Her work encourages us to never give up, to fight for those who cannot fight for themselves, and follow the science that bring us into a world where clean water, clean air, and environmental conservation is the primary goal, not an afterthought.



ARTICLE BY: Femi Aladi, Geocoding Developer



Happy International Day of Women and Girls in Science!

This year's theme as developed by the UN is Investment in Women and Girls in Science for Inclusive Green Growth:

“Science and gender equality are both vital for the achievement of the internationally agreed development goals, including the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Over the past 15 years, the global community has made a lot of effort in inspiring and engaging women and girls in science. Yet women and girls continue to be excluded from participating fully in science.”

The full message is inspirational – read it here:

We hear that in order to encourage women and girls to pursue scientific careers, we should showcase the amazing women that are in the field now. That’s why I’m excited that Esri Press is releasing the new Women in GIS book this quarter, with 23 stories about how “ordinary girls with very different passions have become extraordinary women and made significant contributions to our world.” One of my favorite people -- talented writer Candace Hogan -- helped put these stories together, including one from Esri’s coordinate systems expert Margaret Maher (author of Lining Up Data in ArcGIS: a Guide to Map Projections). You can read more about the book here: