My current research on environmental leadership was the perfect gateway for a personal reflection on gender diversity in the environmental sector. Growing up in a patriarchal society, I had very few examples of women leaders around me. Yet, I was so wrong in this line of thought! Countless women around me are forces of Nature, supporting their families but also the environment. First of all, leadership is merely a concept, and it is wrongly attributed to only people in positions of power.
So regardless of your title in life: lawyer, doctor, teacher, mother, wife, etc. you can be an environmental leader. In this case, it means to take a stance in the fight against ecological destruction and supporting other women in this endeavor. This is article applies to all minority groups, including people of color, women, femme/feminine-identifying, genderqueer, and non-binary individuals that are excluded from the environmental movement.
Yet, you might wonder why we should care so much about women empowerment? Gender equality has been recognized as the ethically correct practice for governments and organizations. Yet, women still face an incredible amount of gender discrimination and abuse. A report by the UNDP indicated that women form part of the three largest marginalized groups with less economic power, fewer opportunities, and a lower quality of life.
This is inextricably linked to global environmental issues. Women are the first to be affected by natural disasters like floods and cyclones. In many countries, women have a direct impact on natural resources harvesting food, water, and fuel for their homes. If the ability of women to care for their family is dependent on natural resources, their household will automatically suffer from any degradation of these resources.
If you think that this does not affect you because you buy food at the supermarket or market, just take a moment to reflect on where your carrots and potatoes come from. Despite being undervalued, underpaid, and forgotten, women represent a pillar of our economy and powerful agents of change when it comes to sustainable development. I want to walk you through three concrete actions to empower female leadership in the environmental sector.
1. Be supportive & Give Mentorship
I was conditioned to believe that women are competitors not for jobs or academic achievements but for men's attention. We focus on our differences (religion, sexual orientation, political affiliations, etc.), and we fail to see that we are excluded from the decision-making process. The power of female solidarity has been overlooked for far too long. We can come together and collaborate to better working and living conditions in our house, workplace, village, city, country and worldwide.
If you have the power to provide mentorship or support to other women, you should be aware of this privilege. Mentorship and support can come in diverse forms or shapes. My blog is my way of empowering other women to forge their own path in the environmental sector. So if you see someone willing to bring positive change to their community, the simple act of being an active listener is a way of showing your support. This person could be someone in your family, your partner, a friend, a colleague, or even a stranger.
2. Spend time in Nature but also give back to it
Lately, I have been impressed by the surge of avid hikers in my country Mauritius. Being outdoors has tremendous health benefits, so I am so pleased to see more people enjoying the thrilled of the outdoors. I lived in the middle of the woods for 3 years, and it was undoubtedly the healthiest days of my life. After one and a half years of living in a city in the United States, I now long to go back to island life. You must realize that you cannot take Nature for granted. So yes, do enjoy the outdoors, but take time to give back to it!
I was once called a tree hugger for owning a reusable water bottle. As far as I was concerned, there is only one planet with finite resources, so reducing my single-use plastic was merely common sense. Yet, we often fail to realize that simple things can be powerful collectively. You also can do these simple actions to do your share for Mother Nature. From volunteering your time to an environmental organization to reducing your consumption of meat, there are a plethora of environmentally friendly options. Through the realization that you are an essential part of the ecosystem, you can become a powerful force of Nature.
3. Have an entrepreneurial spirit
Growing up, I felt the pressure of having to make a choice between an environmental career and a family life. In school, I was never encouraged to be an entrepreneur. Today, I realized the importance of keeping an entrepreneurial spirit in my career path. We are potent contributors to the world economy because we bring in a fresh perspective to a male-dominated world. There are many resources and support networks, but it takes time, patience, and effort to find these opportunities. So if your dream is to launch an environmentally and sustainable business, fight for it! You are a precious contribution to your country's economy as a mother, sister, daughter, wife, or friend. You have a place at the negotiation table, no matter your role in life.
You are now an environmental leader...
So if you made it to the end of this article, I assure you that you are on the way to becoming a great environmental leader. I hope that this article will help you feel empowered to make a change around you and in your community. At the bottom of this article, there are resources to help you on your journey and feel free to contact me for more specific resources.
Finding the right career path for you
Choosing the best mentor for you
Promoting diversity, equity and inclusion within your organization
Volunteering & Donations:
Mauritian Wildlife Foundation - https://www.mauritian-wildlife.org/howyoucanhelp
Mauritius Marine Conservation Society - http://www.mmcs-ngo.org/en/content/donations.aspx
World Wildlife Function - https://www.worldwildlife.org/how-to-help
Funding your small business or project & Fellowships:
Global Environment Facility - https://www.thegef.org/about-us
Emerging Wildlife Conservation Leaders - http://wildlifeleaders.org/about/what-is-ewcl/
Wildlife Conservation Society - https://www.wcs.org/about-us/grants
Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund - https://www.cepf.net/our-work
Conservation Leadership Programme - http://www.conservationleadershipprogramme.org/
Echoing green - https://echoinggreen.org/
"Perhaps the time has come to cease calling it the 'environmentalist' view, as though it were a lobbying effort outside the mainstream of human activity, and to start calling it the real-world view."
― Edward O. Wilson