Getting Girls Interested in STEM - An Interactive Map

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The STEM fields - science, technology, engineering and math - are dominated by males, both in educational settings and in the workforce. Given that women in STEM jobs earn 33% more than their counterparts in non-STEM fields, addressing this disparity is vital to closing the wage gap.

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Furthermore, as the United States attempts to compete globally in STEM research and innovation, the country's top minds are needed, whether male or female. (See the Women and Girls in STEM Fact Sheet, published by the federal Office of Science and Technology Policy.) There may be agreement on the need for women in STEM fields, but the question remains how to get them involved. The Huffington Post, which dedicates a news section to Girls in STEM, compiled a list of mentorship groups, programs and resources that can help move girls forward in those fields. Examples of these organizations include Black Girls Code in San Francisco and ManyMentors in Hartford, CT. Because The Huffington Post chose to display this data on a map, it's easy to see how few opportunities there are for girls and women, particularly outside of the Northeast.

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Megan Petroski, a Production Cartographer here at Maponics, offers her perspective. About the Girls in STEM map, Megan says,

"There is an incredibly low number of dots on that map, yet that doesn’t surprise me in the least. My geography program at Kent State University in Ohio had a fairly low number of females and an even lower number dedicated to the GIS track."

Leslie Barbour, Director of Production Systems - another woman in GIS at Maponics - echoes Megan's observation. In her role hiring for Spatial Data Specialists, she found the ratio of male to female applicants to be about 9:1.

"I would sift through the resumes and think, where are the women? It was frustrating. While I want to hire the best people regardless of sex, it would be better to have a more balanced pool of qualified applicants to choose from."

(Leslie and Cecily Herzig, Maponics' Resource Coordinator, were recently interviewed in their alumni publication about women in high tech. Read the interview here.) The Huffington Post expects that as more girls and women choose to follow Megan's lead into STEM professions, resources for training will multiply. They've added a feature to the map that allows users to submit their own Girls in STEM programs and groups. Growth in the number of girls entering STEM fields may become exponential. A study in the journal Social Science Quarterly found that in communities with a greater number of women in STEM jobs, more female students were enrolled in local physics classes. This suggests that as women increasingly enter STEM fields, their presence at local public forums and their involvement in schools might inspire younger generations of girls to follow suit. (Read more about this study on NPR's All Tech Considered.) For her part, Megan is glad to see more attention paid to the tech gender gap. She explains that her STEM job has an unexpected reward:

"When people ask me what I do, I casually shrug my shoulders and answer, 'I’m a cartographer.' Their reply is typically along the lines of, 'Oh. What’s that?' When I explain that my life revolves around maps, the expression of awe that comes over them is worth every bit of the challenge I face as a woman in STEM."