Meet the Women Giving Directions to Millions
For International Women’s Day, we’re taking a guided tour of map editing life with five women stepping up year-round for their communities.
International Women’s Day is a time to reflect on how far society has come with gender equality and how far it still needs to go. No matter what industry or environment you’re in, everyone benefits when there’s greater gender equality. Studies have shown that organizations and countries thrive when women are in leadership roles while group settings, like classrooms, see stronger performance when there is a gender-balance.
In the world of navigation and transportation, gender disparities show up in ways big and small. Something as seemingly insignificant as street names (most are named after men) sends a message about who gets to author where we go and how. Big decisions like testing seatbelt safety on crash dummies that reflect the “average male body” have led to higher rates of serious injury and death for women involved in car crashes.
We’re all connected on the road and the decisions we make affect everyone. So why not work together to make the road and everything it touches better? Our environment, productivity, economies, health (mental and physical)…there’s a lot riding on how we move. That’s why shaping the future of driving and mobility should be inclusive.
Nobody embodies inclusivity better than the women in our Waze Volunteer Community of navigation experts. As Map Editors, Beta Testers, and Localizers, they very literally build, fix, and protect the map in their communities while also helping to shape the features and functionality of Waze. They’re leaders, mentors, and organizers. Their knowledge and know-how is what makes it possible for Wazers to zip around like locals, even if they’re driving in an unfamiliar place.
Susana, Kelly, Ellen, Kathy, and Kate represent editors across four continents, from Australia to South America. Their individual journeys are unique, but they share this: they’d like to welcome more women, nonbinary people, and other often underrepresented groups to the Waze Community. Here’s their “guide” to breaking into navigation, sticking with it, and explaining to friends and family what exactly a Waze volunteer actually does.
Step 1: Find something that needs fixing
There are many different reasons Wazers become community volunteers. One common thread? Most of them didn’t plan on it. But once they discovered there was a way to improve their local map, they were hooked.
“I started using Waze eight years ago when I lived in the UK. When we came to Australia, I noticed lots of errors in the map in Darwin. So I jumped in and started editing.”
“I was using Waze on my daily commute and there were always closures and roads that were never-up-to-date on Waze. I tweeted at the Waze Belgium account every time I found something inaccurate. Eventually their webmaster suggested, ‘You should join our community.’ That’s how I got involved and never left. When you’re out there driving, you’ll get to feel proud because you helped make the map more accurate and up-to-date.”
Step 2: Put your hobbies on the map
You don’t have to be a techie to pick up editing as your new hobby. The Community is…all over the map (sorry) when it comes to their interests.
“When I was little, my favorite games were Doom and Megarace. Now that I’m able to help my city through gamification, and when I see government institutions working with Waze to improve mobility, I enjoy it even more!
“As a kid, I loved line drawing, puzzles, and construction games like LEGO. Being able to build maps of my city was a really exciting experience. I enjoy editing and seeing how the maps in my country improve.”
“I like to go out and watch birds, and I try to make sure those areas are mapped. It’s a place you can go to enjoy the fresh air, and just be away from the noise of the city. ”
Step 3: Watch your influence grow
For many editors, seeing new Wazers pop up on the map is thrilling. Plus, you get bragging rights for your contributions behind-the-scenes.
“There was a woman who owned a hairdressing salon north of where I live that was mapped incorrectly. People would be sent 20 miles away, and they’d be late for their appointments. I was able to fix that error and she was so thrilled. Those are the types of things I look for as a Map Editor.”
“As an editor, I love being a reference in my community, improving the maps and teaching other editors. I am also very proud to have added Galician, my native language, to Waze. We made it from scratch and I’ve even put my voice in. When you select Uxía as your Galician voice, it’s me! My husband didn’t recognize Uxía as my voice. It was a surprise!”
Step 4: Try (and fail) to explain what you do to your friends and family
It’s not as complicated as it sounds.
“People have no idea that you’re actually on the computer, looking at a map. And you’re moving your mouse around and moving icons around. They don’t understand what you’re doing. And I guess you’ve got to see it to really understand it. I’ve always liked maps, so for me it was a pretty natural fit.”
“You can always show them the map and the impact you have on it.”
Step 5: Find your zen
Some people edit the map as a way to unwind. We’re not health professionals, but it’s probably better for your brain than binge-watching reality TV — and it helps others, too.
“Without a doubt, editing helps me relax.”
“I find I use editing as a way to decompress after a stressful day. My husband and kids call it my therapy. They go and play games online, and I’ll edit the Waze map for an hour. I feel a sense of community when I’m doing it, and people are very supportive and generous with their knowledge and sharing it.”
Step 6: Pay it forward
Once you’ve learned everything you need to know about the map, share your wisdom.
“If I can do it as a retired grandmother, I think anyone can do it. And if it’s something you think you’d like, just give it a try. There’s a whole community here to help you be successful if you’re interested. They’ll teach you what you need to know and give you the tools to do it. And make it fun!”
“We’re all really friendly people. We’re doing this because it’s fun. So don’t be afraid to ask questions and reach out to others. Chances are, you’ll get to know people and end up with a good group of friends who share a common interest.”
“We are always attentive to what you need. From resources like ‘Wazeopedia’ to the ‘mentoring’ channel or forums, we’ll help you get answers to questions and improve as an editor. At first you might feel a little nervous, but once you get the hang of it, it’s a lot of fun.”
Ready to rise through the ranks of the Waze Community?