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.
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.
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:
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:
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!