Bay Area GeoWorkforce Survey

Corina Chung, baama diversity workgroup

In the fall of 2014 the Bay Area Automated Mapping Association (BAAMA) launched a survey with the goal of developing a dynamic workforce profile of the geospatial technology community in the San Francisco Bay Area. We hoped to understand the composition of the current workforce: their social and economic background, their work experiences and skills in geospatial technology, and their interests in the field. Ultimately, we want to make BAAMA and the larger geospatial technology community as inclusive as possible, and we started by conducting a survey to better understand who we all are. This article will review our findings on the social and economic characteristics of our survey respondents, with further findings from the rest of the survey to follow in the future.

The survey was intended to be completed by anyone who uses digital geospatial technologies. We define “geospatial technology” as any digital technology that can be used in any capacity to view, develop, or update maps. Therefore, not only GIS analysts, technicians, and managers were the target participants of the survey but any professional who uses maps for his or her work, such as biologists, engineers, planners, designers, developers, scientists, community health advocates, and public safety officials, as well as students learning geospatial technologies. The survey was conducted online from November 2014 through February 2015 via SurveyMonkey.

There were 343 individuals who responded to the survey. The vast majority of respondents hailed from the Bay Area, the intended audience, although several respondents came from outside the area.  See Figure 1. Respondents were mostly concentrated in the San Francisco, Oakland, and Berkeley areas. There was much smaller representation of the remaining Bay Area.

BayGeo_WorkforceSurvey_Map.jpg

Most respondents were male (61.3%), followed by female (36.4%) and transgender (0.3%). The most common age groups were 25-34 years old (34.6%) and 35-44 years old (29.9%). The youngest and oldest populations were the least represented in the survey, especially those under 18 years old (0.3%), as well as 18-24 years old (2.9%) and over 65 years old (3.5%).  See figure 2.

Screen Shot Figure 2 workforce survey.png

Compared to the civilian labor force[1] in the Bay Area, the race and ethnicity breakdown of survey respondents was not proportional.[2] While White individuals made up 44.6% of the civilian labor force,[3] they made up a whopping 71.0% of respondents, making this group the most over-represented among all race and ethnicity groups.  See figure 3. American Indians and Alaska Natives were also over-represented in the survey compared to the Bay Area labor force (1.8% and 0.5%, respectively) but on a much smaller scale. Native Hawaiians/Pacific Islanders were mostly closely represented between the survey and the labor force (0.6% and 0.7%, respectively). The groups most under-represented in the survey, compared to the Bay Area civilian labor force, were Asians (14.7% and 23.9%, respectively), Hispanics and Latinos (6.5% and 20.7%, respectively), and Blacks and African Americans (2.3% and 7.3%, respectively).

Screen Shot Figure 3 workforce survey.png

The survey respondents were overwhelmingly college educated. The most common education levels reported were post-graduate degree (44.6%) and bachelor’s degree (34.3%). A smaller percentage reported some post-graduate coursework (15.8%).

Almost half of survey respondents reported working for a government institution, mostly at the county or city level (35.7%), followed by state and regional (7.3%), and lastly federal (1.7%). See figure 4. The remaining survey respondents mostly worked in the private sector (41.3%). Academic and non-profit institutions had little representation among respondents (8.0% and 5.9%, respectively), and there were no individuals who reported working at foundations.

Screen Shot Figure 4 workforce survey.png

This survey revealed major gaps in the BAAMA community. First, it is clear that most respondents work in the San Francisco, Oakland, and Berkeley area. Second, the vast majority of respondents are 25 to 65 years of age. Third, Asians, Hispanics and Latinos, and Black and African Americans are under-represented, compared to the civilian labor force in the Bay Area. American Indians and Alaska Natives, as well as native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders, are not considered under-represented when comparing labor force data, but these groups make up just 2.4% of the survey respondents. Fourth, the academic and non-profit sectors are meagerly represented and foundations none at all.

This survey has some limitations which should be considered when reflecting on these findings. Because this was an online survey, the sampling is limited and the lack of an interviewer may have resulted in respondent error. Individuals who are active in the BAAMA community or have some ties to members were most likely to have completed the survey. However, we do not believe these limitations prevent us from drawing valuable conclusions from the findings.

Although the findings cannot be extrapolated to the entire geospatial technology community in the Bay Area, they do give us a sense of which communities are not active or have little connection to BAAMA. The findings can also help us start to identify which communities are under-represented in the geospatial technology sector here in the Bay Area. Our goal is to make BAAMA as inclusive as possible, which means conducting outreach to our fellow geospatial technology colleagues who feel disconnected and eventually to communities who are not present in BAAMA or even the geospatial technology field at all.

If you are interested in more information about the survey results or in joining BAAMA, please contact Corina Chung at diversity@baama.org.


[1] Defined as “all persons in the civilian noninstitutional population classified as either employed or unemployed” by the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics

[2] Data compiled using the San Francisco–Oakland–Hayward, CA Metropolitan Statistical Area as the geography

[3] Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2009-2013 American Community Survey 5-year Estimates

Summer 2015 Volume 8 Issue 1