What the professional GIS data currently says
There is a startling representation gap in the Geospatial IT sector. Women and minorities are very tough to find in the lead technical roles that are instrumental in architecting and running GIS departments everywhere.
I did a survey of 1000 LinkedIn profiles and came up with these results. The survey targeted enterprise skills where people classified themselves as GIS developers, programmers, architects, solution engineers, senior analysts and program managers. In these types of roles, the industry is white male dominated which is actually reflective of the entire tech sector.
How schools inadvertently contributed to underrepresentation
Let’s first look at universities where GIS focussed departments first materialized As a relatively young industry, progressive geography departments gained reputations out of San Diego State, UC Santa Barbara, University of Utah. And in the east it was Penn State, University of South Carolina, University of Wisconsin. So you can see that these schools weren’t the best examples of diversity. While I was getting my Master’s, I was one of 2 Latinos in a cohort of 30 in a school that sat right on the US/Mexican border. These schools have produced a mature set of professionals that reflect this imbalance.
But there are other pathways to learn GIS
The great thing about our industry is that you can have any degree and attain a successful career in GIS if you apply yourself to learning the tech. Some of the best GIS developers I know have degrees in archaeology, geology, and biology. Each has a story of stumbling upon a GIS class or working with GIS professionals and following up with their interest to learn more. Esri has done an awesome job with GIS Day in exposing a world of students to the idea of getting a GIS degree or GIS certificate. But most programs don’t have enough leadership diversity with achievable education paths for marginalized communities and thus the pipeline of talent continues to have a limited demographic.
Diversity of Industry instructors
How to bring diversity into the GIS field
Good organizations think about creating leadership that reflects the demographics of the community. I am seeing signs of progress. Esri has supported internal diversity programs like NorthStar and MAPP. And these programs have had rich panel sessions at the last Esri UC. Women in GIS (WIG) and Supporting Women in Geography and GIS (SWIGGIS) have been active at promoting networking and education. See TXGIS day 2020 where SWIGGIS helped organize a virtual event. The next step after discussion and networking must be skill building education that is made available to the targeted demographics. Bootcamp GIS incentivizes instructors from marginalized communities to share their expertise. They act as successful career models and to move the needle with an increase in GIS career professionals. If interested, see our candidate instructor page and see how Peer-2-Peer education is making a difference on our platform.
Keywords and Tags: Diversity, GIS Education, GIS role models, minorities in tech
Andres Abeyta is Executive Director of Bootcamp GIS based in San Diego, CA. For 23 years he has been the leading curriculum developer, elearning architect, and GIS instructor for most of the Federal agencies in the US. He has been travelling the world presenting new ideas as part of selective EdTech innovation programs. LinkedIn profile.