In your day-to-day life, what obstacles prevent you from achieving your goals at work? Upon reflection, each person may have a different and personal response to this question. When posed to a group of women with common work environments, some similar challenges emerge.
Three professionals from The Wildlife Society’s “Women of Wildlife” (WoW) committee engaged this question in conversation during a panel discussion at the 49th Joint Annual Meeting (JAM) of the Arizona and New Mexico Chapters of The Wildlife Society and the Arizona-New Mexico Chapter of the American Fisheries Society, held last month in Flagstaff, Arizona. Despite occupying the multi-day meeting’s final time slot, the audience for the panel discussion was large, energetic – and not just women.
“It was an amazing turnout of women and men, and our panel fostered great discussion among the audience,” says Serra Hoagland, a biological scientist with the Eastern Forest Environmental Threat Assessment Center, PhD candidate at Northern Arizona University, and an early career age group panelist. Other panelists included Kathy Granillo from Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge and Kay Nicholson from Logan Simpson, a landscape architecture design and environmental consulting services firm. Carol Chambers, a professor of wildlife ecology at Northern Arizona University, co-organized the event with Leland Pierce (New Mexico Department of Game and Fish), and moderated the discussion.
The wildlife management profession routinely demands time away from home and office working in remote field areas, and women are often outnumbered. Panelists and audience members who shared observations and experiences saw obstacles to success ranging from family obligations and women’s conventional roles as caretakers to lack of women mentors, safety concerns in the field, gender bias and double standards, barriers preventing equal access to opportunities and promotion, and even harassment. Hoagland, who is Laguna Pueblo, offered her unique perspective during the discussion, citing a scarcity of Native women role models as a key challenge for someone who views her work through the lens of a modern scientist and also holds traditional tribal values.
After recognizing these challenges, the discussion turned to solutions. The panelists and audience were asked to identify one thing The Wildlife Society, their employers, and they themselves could do to improve their careers. Suggestions included mentorship programs, networking opportunities, greater flexibility for work/life balance, and more support for one another. In addition to women helping women, Chambers remarked at the impressive turnout of “user-friendly” men in the audience. Hoagland noted, “Our male allies can be spokespeople and represent the change that we’re working towards.”
The most powerful tool, the panelists and audience agreed, is communication. Because of the successful panel discussion and interesting topics, the next JAM will include a similar WoW event. Additionally, the panel organizers and participants have proposed a women’s symposium during The Wildlife Society’s upcoming annual conference in Raleigh, North Carolina, to keep the conversation going. “Discussions like this are so helpful to start the dialogue and gain momentum and support for women and other underrepresented groups,” says Hoagland.
A recent study of research institutions’ demographics, published in the journal BioScience, examined efforts that have narrowed the gender gap in the U.S. Forest Service over the past 30 years. Read the full text of the study.
For more information, email Serra Hoagland at firstname.lastname@example.org.