Press for Progress: International Women’s Day

Published 08 Mar 2018 
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Dr Rebecca Spindler (Executive Manager, Science and Conservation) with Dr Jody Gunn (Executive Manager South East)<br/> Dr Rebecca Spindler (Executive Manager, Science and Conservation) with Dr Jody Gunn (Executive Manager South East)
Stromatolite expert Erica Suosaari (left) with Ecologoist Vanessa Westcott (right) and a volunteer. Photo Cineport Media.<br/> Stromatolite expert Erica Suosaari (left) with Ecologoist Vanessa Westcott (right) and a volunteer. Photo Cineport Media.
Community Engagement Officer Leanne Hales and Tom Sjolund experiment with smartphone technology.<br/> Community Engagement Officer Leanne Hales and Tom Sjolund experiment with smartphone technology.

On International Women’s Day, I wanted to share some of my own journey in science and conservation, and hopefully inspire some young girls and women out there who are also passionate about the environment.

Like many strong women, my mum remains one of my biggest inspirations. She sent me to a school with a strong focus on maths and science, at a time where entry of women into these areas was low, starting a life-long love of these subjects. From the moment I was born, she sent a clear and resounding message that I could do and be ANYTHING I wanted – pushing through her own fears when I spent eight years researching overseas, much of it in the heart of Africa.

I admire Professor Lesley Hughes, who in her keynote address at our recent Women in Conservation Breakfast, paid homage to women who have paved the way in the climate change debate over the last 150 years. Her pioneering work, and how she so passionately communicates it, resonates deeply.

Over the three years that I have been with Bush Heritage Australia, I have seen things change for the better for women in conservation. Executive managers reporting to the Chief Executive in those three years have predominantly been a 1:5 ratio women to men. In this last six months, this ratio has changed to 1:1; while our staff ratio is over 60% female, and our Board has gender parity.

What I’m most excited to see is over the last three years, we have seen an increase in women filling land management positions, a previously male dominated area. This shift may be a  response to many factors, but included in those has been a deliberate effort to ensure the position descriptions and working conditions are accessible to, or do not deter, female applicants. Our flexible work conditions have also played into the retention of women across the organisation.

Bringing more female workers into our land management positions will no doubt realise unexpected outcomes, incremental changes to culture in the bush, diversification of views and experiences in regional communities, new ideas and solutions to land management or conservation challenges.

There are too many to name individually here, but to all the inspiring, hard-wording and talented women working at Bush Heritage and beyond, thank-you for being my inspiration.

Stromatolite expert Erica Suosaari (left) with Ecologoist Vanessa Westcott (right) and a volunteer. Photo Cineport Media.<br/> Stromatolite expert Erica Suosaari (left) with Ecologoist Vanessa Westcott (right) and a volunteer. Photo Cineport Media.
Community Engagement Officer Leanne Hales and Tom Sjolund experiment with smartphone technology.<br/> Community Engagement Officer Leanne Hales and Tom Sjolund experiment with smartphone technology.