#GAReads | Who Maps the World?
When commercial companies like Google decide to map the not-yet-mapped, they use “The Starbucks Test,” as OSMers like to call it. If you’re within a certain radius of a chain coffee shop, Google will invest in maps to make it easy to find. Everywhere else, especially in the developing world, other virtual cartographers have to fill in the gaps.
But despite OSM’s democratic aims, and despite the long (albeit mostly hidden) history of lady cartographers, the OSM volunteer community is still composed overwhelmingly of men. A comprehensive statistical breakdown of gender equity in the OSM space has not yet been conducted, but Rachel Levine, a GIS operations and training coordinator with the American Red Cross, said experts estimate that only 2 to 5 percent of OSMers are women. The professional field of cartography is also male-dominated, as is the smaller subset of GIS professionals. While it would follow that the numbers of mappers of color and LGBTQ and gender-nonconforming mappers are similarly small, those statistics have gone largely unexamined.