Caroline Robinson founded Clear Mapping Company in 2011 and she has worked in the manufacturing, design and construction sectors for over 20 years, with a wealth of practical design experience across commercial, local authority and other professional fields. Clear Mapping Company provides cartographic and design services for the public and private sectors, both in the UK and overseas. Caroline and her team create illustrated maps and designs using geographic information systems (GIS).
“…For far too long, equal pay has been seen as an issue for women in the workplace. I think we need to change the dialogue…”
Caroline, we’ve spoken to you before. For those who missed it, please could you give as a brief recap on your career to date?
I’m a cartographic designer based in Cornwall, with experience in information design, product design and mapping services to ecology and landscape teams. I started Clear Mapping Company with a bicycle and a laptop essentially providing mapping services in a sustainable and inclusive way.
Clear Mapping Company has grown since we last spoke to you. Please can you tell us about this?
Over the past five years, Clear Mapping Company has developed its audience with Geographic Information Systems (GIS), design and illustration; predominantly in the rural economy in the UK. We were recently awarded ‘Highly Commended’ at the Rural Business Awards for Best Creative Business 2016. Last year we won the British Cartographic Society / Ordnance Survey Open Data Award 2015, which has helped establish Clear Mapping Company with its peers in the cartographic and GIS community.
Dr. Nick Bearman joined us in April, which has enabled us to offer quality GIS training across the country. We’re basically growing really, really fast to meet demand!
In this issue we’re examining the gender pay gap and equal pay, but there’s much confusion about the two, and it’s hard to illustrate the facts. How can good data visualisation help persuade people to engage with a particular issue, such as championing equal pay?
Conveying this information can be difficult to explain, but one of the tools in the tool box is data visualisation. I cannot stress enough that you always need to consider your audience when trying to explain the difference between equal pay and the gender pay gap. With current estimate it will take us until 2069 at the current rate of progress to close the pay gap, this is an essential thorny issue that all employers must grasp.
Who are you talking to? What media do they consume? One of the key ways to target managers and employers is through membership magazines such as those distributed by Chartered Management Institute (CMI). Reading Management Today, which emphasises the advantages of women on boards, helps managers and employers think about the impact of equal pay on the long term gender pay gap. The evidence if profound; means more diversity on boards make businesses stronger and more resilient to the markets, but data visualisation can’t change society on its own.
Only when this becomes a productivity issue, will there ultimately be societal change. As well as facts, we need to stir the emotions too.
As more data is made open, how can we all use it to learn more about the issues we are passionate about like the gender pay gap?
By publishing this type of data, we are opening up the secrecy around pay packages and making them transparent within companies, for all staff. For far too long, equal pay has been seen as an issue for women in the workplace. I think we need to change the dialogue, with all employers being required to prove that they are complying with the Equality Act (2010).
What are your favourite tools?
We use professional design software, such as ArcGIS / AutoCAD / Adobe Creative Suite, but there is also a wealth of open-sourced, creative commons software out there as well as online tools to help you sort out your data into a visual format that is easy to understand including QGIS, Rstudio and Tableau.
How can the STEAM approach of blending STEM and art / design be used to keep more girls interested in STEM subjects at school?
School needs to treasure creativity and inquisitiveness as these are the greatest assets for a new, agile business like ours. However, the dogma of testing has taken up far more of the secondary school curriculum than necessary. I don’t understand the friction between STEM and the Arts – combined they are extremely powerful – just look at Zaha Hadid, one the most well-known female architects in history.
What is coming up next for you and Clear Mapping Company?
Personally, I am just trying to ride the wave! We are expanding into the Middle East and Asia with mapping services in dual languages, which is really fascinating. It really helps you understand and appreciate different cultures with each nuance on the map.
We are still growing in the rural economy in the UK and have been working in partnership with another female-owned business – Anytime Booking. We are working to spread knowledge of open source data and programming with training courses around the country. We want to share our expertise in GIS with as many organisations as possible, ensuring we always meet our pillars of sustainability and inclusiveness as standard. I’m loving it!
Zaha Hadid image credit: By Knight Foundation – zaha hadid, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19590166