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.
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:
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.
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: "...science 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.
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.
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!
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!
March 8thisInternational 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 tocelebrating 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.
WeCanis also doing our part by supporting and presenting the joys of the STEM field to local middle school girls. On March5th, Dynasty Machado & Jennifer Bell presented at the 25thAnnual AAUW STEM conference at the University of Redlands, where over600 students from the Redlands and Yucaipa middle schools andRedlands’ charter schools participated. Dynasty and Jennifer held workshops discussing how they use GIS in their roles atEsriand 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.
TheAmerican 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.
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.