March 29, 2021
Megan Cope: Analyzing the Future of Women in GIS
By: Grace Pickron
This Women’s History Month, Timmons Group is proud to highlight Megan Cope, a Raleigh-based GIS Analyst in our Geospatial Technology Division. Megan, like many women in STEM career fields, has overcome each of the hurdles associated with these statistics to be where she is today:
A November 2020 study by Yale Scientific (source) found these gender-based dispartities have a large impact on women in the STEM workforce:
- Women represent 52% of the college-educated workforce, but only 29% of the STEM workforce
- Women account for only 15.6% of the engineering workforce
- Women make up 25.4% of the computer science workforce
Conducted in the years 2011 to 2016, a study by Society of Women Engineers (source) found that:
- Women earned 54% more bachelor’s degrees in engineering and computer science
- 6% of women-earned bachelor’s degrees in engineering were earned by women of color
Women are not only less likely to be introduced to STEM-based careers (source) in their formative years of learning, they are also more likely to leave the field during their education:
- Over 32% of women switched out of their STEM degree programs in college
- Only 30% of women who earned a bachelor’s degree in engineering are still working in engineering 20 years later
- 30% of women who have left the engineering profession cite organizational climate as the reason
Megan was brought on to the Timmons Group team to be a part of the North Carolina Department of Transportation’s (NCDOT) prioritization project. Following her work on the project over the past two years, Megan’s role evolved into a broad spectrum of work as an analyst that she had not previously imagined.
Megan studied at the University of North Carolina Greensboro where she graduated with two Bachelors’ of Arts degrees, one in Historical Archaeology and the other in Classics. “It was Historical Archaeology that led me to discovering my master’s degree. I was digging on an archaeological site and we brought someone in to map points to help find the artifacts. When they brought out the Total Station to survey the site, I was able to try it out and just fell in love,” said Megan.
After completing her bachelor’s degrees, Megan went on to pursue a master’s degree in GIS and Remote Sensing at UNCG. Throughout her degree courses, Megan and two other students were the only women in her classes. Instead of being deterred by a potential lack of women in the future of her career choice, Megan focused on her personal growth and professional development. Now, whenever she interacts with other women in the field, she feels empowered by the work they are accomplishing within the GIS industry.
In November 2020 Megan completed her work on a StoryMap for NCDOT’s SPOT On!ine, a data-driven online application. SPOT On!ine allows North Carolina-based transportation professionals to submit projects for consideration by NCDOT. The application gathers important information about the newly proposed project, generates a preliminary point in time cost estimate (for main modes of transportation), and is then given a score. The calculations provide a system for NCDOT to fund individual projects. SPOT On!ine StoryMap was not only user-interactive, but also proved to be a valuable multi-faceted resource. In Megan’s words, “It's a great tool for onboarding employees that perhaps have never worked with transportation data before because it allows them to get an idea of SPOT On!ine in a training atmosphere. Also, it's a nice resource for the clients because the StoryMap demos the actual application.”
As she moves forward from SPOT On!ine in the future, Megan hopes to use similar applications to help showcase her team’s work and to clearly display data for the user and viewer. Megan will continue advocating for women in STEM-related fields and she is always looking for opportunities to collaborate with and celebrate her female colleagues.
To see more of Megan’s work follow her on LinkedIn!
Written by Grace Pickron
Interview conducted by Lillian Minix