The offerings of both men and women are valuable to creating diverse and cohesive teams. The unfortunate truth, however, is the female gender is still wildly underrepresented in scientific fields, including those that contribute to environmental protection. According to Forbes, only 12 percent of available jobs in the green energy field are held by women.
Women always worked the land with the men in the past—helping with farming, harvesting, hunting, game processing and other duties. What we know about women and their environmental contributions only comes to us in bits and pieces, as female history was not popularly recorded. Stories of women working in environmental science in the recent past are seemingly rare. However, behind great men who were credited with scientific feats were an equal number of great women supporting them, or working alongside them. For example, M. Alice Cornman, a dedicated botanist, is often noted in history for her help furthering Ellsworth P. Killip’s research while her own essays went unpublished.
There a large number of female botanists, biologists, and experimental minds who have received praise and recognition for what they have done to benefit our natural environment. The praise is often short, quiet, and not often front-page news. It’s beneficial to the younger generation to highlight the achievements of women to further promote interest in pursuing a path in environmental protection.
The most definable need for women to be present in the actions towards environmental protection is due to their naturally heightened levels of sensitivity. The biologically ingrained maternal instincts of a woman have already shown to be useful in professions such as education and nonprofit organizations which work to benefit others. Women exhibit higher levels of empathy and sensitivity to environmental and public health issues and have much to contribute.
Taking on issues that affect public health, such as the environmental and physical health complications caused by asbestos or other harmful chemicals, are fueled by the compassion of leaders of change. For example, without the strong voice of Rachel Carson in her book “Silent Spring,” the charge to abolish the use of the pesticide DDT in America may not have happened as early as it did, and could have resulted in further negative environmental impact. The contributions of women in the past, such as Jane Goodall’s work with gorillas and Wangari Maathai’s Green Belt Movement promoting sustainable development in Africa, should set an example for the women who will follow them.
Opening Up Opportunities
The only way to enlist more women in the fight to protecting the environment is by creating more opportunities to do so. By establishing mentorships and training programs led by women in the field, it’s an opportunity to showcase the role women can play and encourage younger women to follow in their footsteps. The sciences have been predominantly a male-dominated field, and will continue to be until women begin to feel comfortable in establishing themselves in similar roles.
Outlining the pathways young girls can take for careers in tech, research and development, and natural resource management may contribute to forming the next generation of female environmental advocates.
Facing a changing climate and declining oil supply, the need for change and innovation is dire.
As the impactful female environmentalist and writer Rachel Carson once said:
“The road we have long been travelling is deceptively easy, a smooth superhighway on which we progress with great speed, but at its end lies disaster. The other fork of the road—the one less traveled by—offers our last, our only chance to reach a destination that assures the preservation of the earth.”
Photo by Samuel Zeller
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