Women in STEM at Maponics
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Of the 21 STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) jobs at Maponics, 4 are filled by women, or about 20%. This is consistent with the overall proportion of women here: 25% of the employees, or 11 of 43, are women. The ratio of women to men in STEM jobs at Maponics is about what it is nationally. According to a 2011 report published by the Economics and Statistics Administration (ESA) of the U.S. Department of Commerce, less than a quarter of all STEM jobs are held by women, although women make up half of the workforce.
Are Women Discouraged from Pursuing STEM?
In her New York Times article Why Are There Still So Few Women in Science?, Eileen Pollack puts the problem at the feet of our culture. Even today, and even at our nation's top educational institutions, young women are not necessarily encouraged to seek graduate degrees in science and math. Pollack describes the environment women face:
"[A] culture that teaches girls math isn’t cool and no one will date them if they excel in physics; a culture in which professors rarely encourage their female students to continue on for advanced degrees; a culture in which success in graduate school is a matter of isolation, competition and ridiculously long hours in the lab; a culture in which female scientists are hired less frequently than men, earn less money and are allotted fewer resources."
Maponics Women Weigh In
We thought it would be interesting to look at the experiences of Maponics women in STEM fields. It turns out only 1 of the 4 STEM women in the office actually thinks of herself as a science or tech person: Leslie Barbour, Director of Production Systems. Leslie has her BA in Geography from Mount Holyoke College and has had several jobs in high tech, including digitizing the street network that became TIGER, her first job out of college. But both Cecily Herzig, Manager of Data Acqusitions, and Megan Petroski, Production Cartographer, came to GIS through the arts and humanities. In fact, Cecily majored in environmental studies with a geography focus, also at Mount Holyoke, but her minor was in studio art. She says,
"I focused a lot on the artistic and visually engaging facets of GIS, like aerial photo interpretation and earth images from above. Land art projects as well, like the work of Christo, held great appeal.”
Although Megan has her master's degree in GIS and urban planning from Kent State University, she used to relate more to the humanities and the arts than to the sciences. She notes, "All through high school and most of college, I strongly identified with arts/English classes. Then I discovered the 'art' of maps and I was hooked." Another female cartographer at Maponics, Stephanie Laflam, found herself studying geography at the University of Maine at Farmington simply because it interested her:
"When I decided to go to school for geography, I didn’t think of it as techie, as something that not a lot of women did. I was just interested in it so that’s what I learned about. It wasn’t like I got into the field thinking it was going to be especially challenging just because I'm female. It didn’t even occur to me."
The experience of the "STEM women" at Maponics suggests that science and technology don't have to be perceived as wildly dissimilar to other endeavors - an idea echoed by Meg Urry, professor of physics and astronomy at Yale, in Pollack's New York Times piece. Urry found that working in a science lab wasn't so alien to her after all:
“I’m soldering things, and I’m thinking, Hey, I’m really good at this. I know the principles. It’s like an art. It took me years to realize I’m actually good with my hands. I have all these small-motor skills from all the years I spent sewing, knitting and designing things. We should tell young women, ‘That stuff actually prepares you for working in a lab.’ ”
Are you a woman in the STEM fields who might be interested in a career with Maponics?