Women Are Rising in the Conservation Movement, but Still Face #MeToo Challenges
By Megan Jones and Jennifer Solomon
The #MeToo movement has caused profound shake-ups at organizations across the U.S. in the last two years. So far, however, it has left many unresolved questions about how workplaces can be more inclusive and equitable for women and other diverse groups.
In its latest twist, over the last month a series of top executives have exited The Nature Conservancy, the largest conservation organization in North America. They left after an internal investigation, prompted by sexual harassment and workplace misconduct accusations, which found that the organization's culture "can make it difficult for women to thrive."
We have been studying women in conservation leadership for the past several years, and unfortunately this news didn't shock us. Our research shows that harassment is one of many gender-related challenges that frequently confront women conservation leaders.
I’m not seeing a lot of buzz about this outside of my TNC alumni boards. But in the last week, @nature_org’s President, CEO, and now Caribbean program chief have resigned amid an internal probe on workplace Miss conduct, sexual harassment, and gender discrimination. This is huge.— Ember McCoy (@embermc) June 10, 2019
Women's Expanding Presence in Conservation
For over 30 years environmental conservation in the U.S. has been critiqued for being led by white, wealthy people, mainly men. Environmental organizations have pledged to do better by hiring more diverse staffs and partnering more closely with environmental justice advocates.
Women are expanding their presence in conservation: In 2017 they occupied 41% of full-time staff jobs. But until recently there has been little research on their experiences.
And The Nature Conservancy is not the first organization where women have complained about a challenging work climate. Since 2016 sexual harassment scandals have been reported at the nonprofit group Conservation International and the U.S. National Park Service.
Research has identified numerous workplace barriers that make it hard for professional women to advance. They include challenges to their competence, salary and promotion disparities and sexual harassment. These challenges have been called a "labyrinth" that can hold many women back from senior leadership. Although environmental conservation is a progressive-leaning field whose advocates view themselves as striving to "do good," we found in a recent study that female scientists who led conservation efforts faced many of these obstacles.
Gender-Related Challenges at Environmental Organizations
We interviewed 56 women in conservation leadership positions at non-government organizations, federal and state agencies and other organizations in 19 states. Their ages ranged from 26 to 64, and they had diverse natural and social science credentials.
In our conversations they described six categories of gender-related challenges. They included salary inequality and difficulty negotiating pay levels; unequal hiring and promotion; informal exclusion; sexual harassment and inadequate organizational responses; and assumptions that that they were either unqualified to do their work or unfit to be leaders.
Women remembered these challenges starting early in their careers, whether in the form of harassment at remote field sites or judgment that legitimate scientists shouldn't wear high heels or makeup. For many it continued into their late careers as senior leaders whose colleagues still greeted their success with surprise.
Women of all backgrounds reported these experiences. Most had encountered at least four of these challenges. Many reported experiencing sexual harassment, from unwanted comments to unwanted contact. A few described male supervisors or colleagues behaving in verbally or physically threatening ways.
In their view these behaviors often went unreported because women feared retaliation or did not think reporting would lead to change. When organizations did take action, women in our study viewed it as insufficient. As one woman explained, "I've thought about reporting it and then I was like, why? He won't be held accountable for change. It would be on me, and it would be something like, 'You need to take that less personally.'"
Women of color face even higher hurdles than their white counterparts. Black, Hispanic and Asian American study participants described being singled out as "the only" conservationist of their race or ethnicity and having colleagues assume they were not leaders or scientists. As several of them explained, white women might struggle to sit at the conservation table, but women of color faced many challenges to even get into the building.
What Kind of Support Helps?
Our participants told us that two types of support had improved their situations. One category consisted of structural measures – organizational policies on sexual harassment, salary inequity and other issues, and training on topics such as leadership and diversity. Some women reported that organizational policies on sexual harassment were only put in place following a scandal.
Other helpful measures centered on personal relationships. They included behaviors such as providing opportunities, learning women's individual needs, offering feedback and guidance, connecting women to professional networks, championing their work and demonstrating confidence in them.
Seeing these behaviors modeled by leaders, regardless of their gender, was particularly important. In this light, the hiring of former Interior Secretary Sally Jewell as The Nature Conservancy's interim CEO seems promising. Jewell has already highlighted the need for a workplace culture "where employees can bring their whole selves to work."
Why Diversity Matters in Conservation
Conservation is more than protecting wildlife and natural systems. It also involves working with people to promote sustainable lifestyles and habits, so that future generations can thrive. In a 2014 essay, 240 conservation scientists asserted that "issues of gender and cultural bias" were hindering conservation by fueling divisive arguments over why and how to conserve nature.
"Conservation regularly encounters varied points of view and a range of values in the real world," they wrote. "To address and engage these views and values, we call for more-inclusive representation of scientists and practitioners in the charting of our field's future, and for a more-inclusive approach to conservation."
The upheaval at The Nature Conservancy is part of broad calls for a transformation of the U.S. conservation movement. There are many reasons to believe that a more diverse movement will be more effective, not only in attracting and retaining talented staff, but also in addressing the unprecedented extinction crisis facing our planet.
Megan Jones is a Ph.D. candidate in human dimensions of natural resources at Colorado State University.
Jennifer Solomon is an assistant professor of human dimensions of natural resources at Colorado State University.
Disclosure statement: The authors do not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and have disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Reposted with permission from our media associate The Conversation.
- 5 Earth Conscious Women to Honor on International Women's Day ... ›
- Black Women Shark Scientists Create Network to Encourage People of Color - EcoWatch ›
Fifteen states are in for an unusually noisy spring.
- Millions of Cicadas Set to Emerge After 17 Years Underground ... ›
- Cicadas Show Up 4 Years Early - EcoWatch ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Deep in the woods, a hairy, ape-like man is said to be living a quiet and secluded life. While some deny the creature's existence, others spend their lives trying to prove it.
- Why Hunting Isn't Conservation, and Why It Matters - Rewilding ›
- Decline In Hunters Threatens How U.S. Pays For Conservation : NPR ›
- Is Hunting Conservation? Let's examine it closely ›
- Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation | Oklahoma ... ›
- Oklahoma Bill Calls for Bigfoot Hunting Season | Is Bigfoot Real? ›
By Jon Queally
Noted author and 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben was among the first to celebrate word that the president of the European Investment Bank on Wednesday openly declared, "To put it mildly, gas is over" — an admission that squares with what climate experts and economists have been saying for years if not decades.
- Fossil Fuel Industry Is Now 'in the Death Knell Phase': CNBC's Jim ... ›
- Mayors of 12 Major Global Cities Pledge Fossil Fuel Divestment ... ›
- World's Largest Public Bank Ditches Oil and Coal in Victory for the ... ›
Nine feet tall is gigantic by human standards, but when researcher and conservationist Michael Brown spotted a giraffe in Uganda's Murchison Falls National Park that measured nine feet, four inches, he was shocked.
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="54af350ee3a2950e0e5e69d926a55d83"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/yf4NRKzzTFk?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
- Giraffe Parts Sold Across U.S. Despite Plummeting Wild Populations ... ›
- Green Groups Sue to Get Giraffes on Endangered Species List ... ›
- Conservationists Sound Alarm on Plummeting Giraffe Numbers ... ›
By Daisy Simmons
1. Stay Informed<p>A first order of business in pet evacuation planning is to understand and be ready for the possible threats in your area. Visit <a href="https://www.ready.gov/be-informed" target="_blank">Ready.gov</a> to learn more about preparing for potential disasters such as floods, hurricanes, and wildfires. Then pay attention to related updates by tuning <a href="http://www.weather.gov/nwr/" target="_blank">NOAA Weather Radio</a> to your local emergency station or using the <a href="https://www.fema.gov/mobile-app" target="_blank">FEMA app</a> to get National Weather Service alerts.</p>
2. Ensure Your Pet is Easily Identifiable<p><span>Household pets, including indoor cats, should wear collars with ID tags that have your mobile phone number. </span><a href="https://www.avma.org/microchipping-animals-faq" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Microchipping</a><span> your pets will also improve your chances of reunion should you become separated. Be sure to add an emergency contact for friends or relatives outside your immediate area.</span></p><p>Additionally, use <a href="https://secure.aspca.org/take-action/order-your-pet-safety-pack" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">'animals inside' door/window stickers</a> to show rescue workers how many pets live there. (If you evacuate with your pets, quickly write "Evacuated" on the sticker so first responders don't waste time searching for them.)</p>
3. Make a Pet Evacuation Plan<p> "No family disaster plan is complete without including your pets and all of your animals," says veterinarian Heather Case in <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q9NRJkFKAm4" target="_blank">a video</a> produced by the American Veterinary Medical Association.</p><p>It's important to determine where to take your pet in the event of an emergency.</p><p>Red Cross shelters and many other emergency shelters allow only service animals. Ask your vet, local animal shelters, and emergency management officials for information on local and regional animal sheltering options.</p><p>For those with access to the rare shelter that allows pets, CDC offers <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/healthypets/emergencies/pets-in-evacuation-centers.html" target="_blank">tips on what to expect</a> there, including potential health risks and hygiene best practices.</p><p>Beyond that, talk with family or friends outside the evacuation area about potentially hosting you and/or your pet if you're comfortable doing so. Search for pet-friendly hotel or boarding options along key evacuation routes.</p><p>If you have exotic pets or a mix of large and small animals, you may need to identify multiple locations to shelter them.</p><p>For other household pets like hamsters, snakes, and fish, the SPCA recommends that if they normally live in a cage, they should be transported in that cage. If the enclosure is too big to transport, however, transfer them to a smaller container temporarily. (More on that <a href="https://www.spcai.org/take-action/emergency-preparedness/evacuation-how-to-be-pet-prepared" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">here</a>.)</p><p>For any pet, a key step is to establish who in your household will be the point person for gathering up pets and bringing their supplies. Keep in mind that you may not be home when disaster strikes, so come up with a Plan B. For example, you might form a buddy system with neighbors with pets, or coordinate with a trusted pet sitter.</p>
4. Prepare a Pet Evacuation Kit<p>Like the emergency preparedness kit you'd prepare for humans, assemble basic survival items for your pets in a sturdy, easy-to-grab container. Items should include:</p><ul><li>Water, food, and medicine to last a week or two;</li><li>Water, food bowls, and a can opener if packing wet food;</li><li>Litter supplies for cats (a shoebox lined with a plastic bag and litter may work);</li><li>Leashes, harnesses, or vehicle restraints if applicable;</li><li>A <a href="https://www.avma.org/resources/pet-owners/emergencycare/pet-first-aid-supplies-checklist" target="_blank">pet first aid kit</a>;</li><li>A sturdy carrier or crate for each cat or dog. In addition to easing transport, these may serve as your pet's most familiar or safe space in an unfamiliar environment;</li><li>A favorite toy and/or blanket;</li><li>If your pet is prone to anxiety or stress, the American Kennel Club suggests adding <a href="https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/home-living/create-emergency-evacuation-plan-dog/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">stress-relieving items</a> like an anxiety vest or calming sprays.</li></ul><p>In the not-unlikely event that you and your pet have to shelter in different places, your kit should also include:</p><ul><li>Detailed information including contact information for you, your vet, and other emergency contacts;</li><li>A list with phone numbers and addresses of potential destinations, including pet-friendly hotels and emergency boarding facilities near your planned evacuation routes, plus friends or relatives in other areas who might be willing to host you or your pet;</li><li>Medical information including vaccine records and a current rabies vaccination tag;</li><li>Feeding notes including portions and sizes in case you need to leave your pet in someone else's care;</li><li>A photo of you and your pet for identification purposes.</li></ul>
5. Be Ready to Evacuate at Any Time<p>It's always wise to be prepared, but stay especially vigilant in high-risk periods during fire or hurricane season. Practice evacuating at different times of day. Make sure your grab-and-go kit is up to date and in a convenient location, and keep leashes and carriers by the exit door. You might even stow a thick pillowcase under your bed for middle-of-the-night, dash-out emergencies when you don't have time to coax an anxious pet into a carrier. If forecasters warn of potential wildfire, a hurricane, or other dangerous conditions, bring outdoor pets inside so you can keep a close eye on them.</p><p>As with any emergency, the key is to be prepared. As the American Kennel Club points out, "If you panic, it will agitate your dog. Therefore, <a href="https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/home-living/create-emergency-evacuation-plan-dog/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">pet disaster preparedness</a> will not only reduce your anxiety but will help reduce your pet's anxiety too."</p>
Evacuating Horses and Other Farm Animals<p>The same basic principles apply for evacuating horses and most other livestock. Provide each with some form of identification. Ensure that adequate food, water, and medicine are available. And develop a clear plan on where to go and how to get there.</p><p>Sheltering and transporting farm animals requires careful coordination, from identifying potential shelter space at fairgrounds, racetracks, or pastures, to ensuring enough space is available in vehicles and trailers – not to mention handlers and drivers on hand to support the effort.</p><p>For most farm animals, the Red Cross advises that you consider precautionary evacuation when a threat seems imminent but evacuation orders haven't yet been announced. The American Veterinary Medical Association has <a href="https://www.avma.org/resources/pet-owners/emergencycare/large-animals-and-livestock-disasters" target="_blank">more information</a>.</p>
Bottom Line: If You Need to Evacuate, So Do Your Pets<p>As the Humane Society warns, pets left behind in a disaster can easily be injured, lost, or killed. Plan ahead to make sure you can safely evacuate your entire household – furry members included.</p>
- 5 Ways to Be an Eco-Friendly Pet Owner - EcoWatch ›
- Can Your Pets Get and Transmit Coronavirus? - EcoWatch ›