By Suzanne Vanderhoef
In the heart St. Louis, surrounded by red brick buildings and warehouses, is an unexpected oasis –one where women are digging in the dirt to plant sustainable vegetable gardens outside and sitting in classrooms inside, learning about everything from construction to marketing to geospacial analysis.
It’s called Rung for Women.
“Rung for Women is a non-profit organization that really focuses on helping women either change careers or grow in their existing careers,” explains Leslie Gill, President of Rung for Women. “Our entire goal is we want women to move up the rungs of the economic opportunity ladder and attain more wealth.”
Rung opened its doors in August of 2020. It had its first cohort in March of 2021 and in one year has served nearly 300 women.
In particular, Rung helps connect its members to careers where women are typically underrepresented in industries that have significant growth potential, but don’t require a bachelor’s degree.
“Most of them are STEM because that’s what’s growing,” says Gill. “We really look at what the regional demand is, what employers need. We know that St. Louis is certainly a growing location for geospatial roles, growing in technology, growing in entrepreneurship and so we really focus on those areas of growth…like geospatial analysts, like coders and technologists or medical coders, construction trades, roles where women are typically directed away from and those roles that are typically known as man’s work.”
Rung works to expose women to those career pathways and to connect them directly with employers, so that once they finish a training or certification program, they can go right into employment opportunities because we’re connecting them directly to employers. For example, that geospacial learning comes thru a computer-based program with Maryville University, that offers a certificate in geospacial analysis.
“It’s a separate course developed for Rung specifically for the skills the three companies we partnered with said they would need if they were going to hire somebody from Rung,” explains Scott Chadwick, Chief of Partnership Acquisition, Maryville University. “They will collect satellite imagery of different locations and they have to analyze what’s there and mark so that you can say, it’s a road, it’s a hospital, it’s this type of building, it’s this type of geology, and that’s what they do with the data.”
One of the first women to go through that program was DaMisha White. DaMisha left college after a year and had a good-paying job with Amazon, but felt stuck and wanted to do something else with her life. She just didn’t know what. After completing the course at Rung through Maryville, she’s now a Geospacial Analyst with Maxar.
“Basically I look over 3D maps and I correct them. I’m looking for any errors or any issues, so I just surf over maps. It’s very cool! I would have never imagined how my life would be right now, and it all has happened in over 365 days. I would say, if you put in the time and put in the effort, you will be rewarded. You’re going to have a great outcome. Your life is going to be better.”