In fact, I recall one female colleague who was going for a ranger job being asked “but could you lift an outboard motor off the back of a boat?” in her interview.
" Thankfully attitudes to women in the conservation workforce have changed, for the benefit of society and the environment at large.”
In those less enlightened days, physical strength was seen as one of the main requirements for the job and it was widely perceived women just weren’t going to cut it on that basis. Whilst she didn’t get the job that time, my colleague did go onto a successful career in the field.
In a sign of things to come in Kakadu, two women were part of the fist Aboriginal ranger training program and both went onto successful careers as rangers and leaders in the park.
Thankfully attitudes to women in the conservation workforce have changed, for the benefit of society and the environment at large.
The conservation sector blends science and practical land management with science-based monitoring, informing what we do for best outcomes. It’s now commonplace to see female rangers, land managers, ecologists, reserve managers and environmental scientists working hard to protect our natural environment.
The old stereotypes of the bloke in khaki or in a lab coat needs to be put to rest as we enter a new era of working together.
With our financial institutions, large corporations and government making concerted efforts to ensure women are represented, paid equally and offered the same opportunities as their male counterparts. I’ve seen a seismic shift in the science and land management sectors to ensure women have an equal seat at the table.
I’ve been fortunate to see this shift personally during my time at Bush Heritage Australia.
When I started in 2011, we had around a third of our land management roles filled by women; now it’s a more balanced 50 per cent. I am pleased with the progress we have made in addressing the balance of senior roles and Board membership at Bush Heritage to include many talented, intelligent and ambitious women and to do my bit to make sure we make use of a diverse range of backgrounds, expertise and views in our decision making.
To that effect, both our Board and our senior management team have reached gender parity. In fact, as I finish my seven-year tenure at the helm of Bush Heritage, I’m very pleased to be handing over the reins to Heather Campbell, who will be our first female CEO.
We know increasing female participation has enormous positive impacts across a range of indicators.
The United Nations tells us “companies greatly benefit from increasing leadership opportunities for women, which is shown to increase organisational effectiveness. It is estimated that companies with three or more women in senior management functions score higher in all dimensions of organisational effectiveness”.
And we need to be more effective if we want to see some of the damage done to our environment repaired.
Looking out to the wider conservation landscape in Australia, there’s a wealth of women leading the charge to effect the change we need and secure a better future for the generations to come.