When I started my path as a wildlife biologist over 20 years ago, I had no idea what being a woman in this field would teach me about strength, resiliency, or overcoming adversity. Be it trekking through malaria-infested jungles in Papua New Guinea, navigating over 7,000 miles of rugged terrain in Southern Africa, sailing across the Pacific Ocean, or living in a tent on the most remote coral atoll in the world, I can safely say that being a woman deeply devoted to wildlife requires a unique level of perseverance. Yet, it is not the physical challenges that have earned me my warrior scars over time. Those scars have come from my many successful fights to transcend traditional and cultural views of what women are capable of in my field of work.
Today, women around the world are changing the trajectory of conservation. As the fate of so many species and habitats hangs in the balance, women are rising to meet global challenges through collaboration, compassion, and courage. Research shows that conservation projects achieve better results when they involve women in decision-making. Yet, obstacles such as gender bias, discrimination, harassment, inequity in pay, cultural constraints, and violence remain prevalent. The overarching and adverse impacts of these gender-related challenges are only recently being studied and more openly spoken about in the conservation realm. But nearly every woman I have worked with across 45 different countries has faced one or more of these barriers in her career.
Although women are professionally expanding their presence in conservation, they are often underrepresented in higher positions of leadership across the conservation world. In local communities, women tend to have limited influence around management of natural resources and protected areas. And in science, less than 30 percent of the world’s researchers are women, and those women are publishing less and getting paid less.
Beyond these barriers and stifling statistics, extraordinary women continue to transform how we empower communities, manage resources, navigate human/wildlife conflicts, communicate with the world, lead policy change, educate our next generation of stewards, and launch global movements.
I created Women for Wildlife in 2016 to help women around the world come together and form a collective voice for wildlife conservation. Through connection, recognition, media, and mentorship, we aspire to bring women together to share knowledge, build community, and create impact.
In 2019, we expanded our regional chapters to include: Africa, Latin America, Europe, India, Oceania, and parts of the US. Our thousands of chapter members can now build alliances, collaborate on projects, host events, and cultivate community.
Learn more about this Earth Island project at womenforwildlife.com
Women for Wildlife also partners with nonprofits and eco-tourism companies to create experiences and expeditions that both support women-led conservation initiatives and directly contribute to wildlife projects. Through our partnership with the South African nonprofit Blue Sky Society Trust, we joined together as an all-female team for the 50-day Rise of the Matriarch Expedition in support of women-led conservation and education initiatives focused on human-wildlife conflict in Zimbabwe, Namibia, Botswana, and South Africa. Our newest partnership with EcoTraining Safari Guide and Wildlife Training aims to offer more women the opportunity to become professional stewards for conservation.
As a global community, there are many things we can all do to better support women in conservation. Perhaps most importantly, we can use our voice, and whatever platform we have, to lift up the leadership of women.
We are standing at a pivotal moment in history, one in which education and advocacy around the climate emergency, public health, racial injustice, and economic inequity is imperative. At Earth Island Journal, we have doubled down on our commitment to uplifting stories that often go unheard, to centering the voices of frontline communities, and to always speak truth to power. We are nonprofit publication. We don’t have a paywall because our mission is to inform, educate and inspire action. Which is why we rely on readers like you for support. If you believe in the work we do, please consider making a tax-deductible year-end donation to our Green Journalism Fund.Donate
For $15 you can get four issues of the magazine, a 50 percent savings off the newsstand rate.