BOARD MEMBER SPOTLIGHT
When did you get involved in EcoWomen? Why?
I first learned about EcoWomen while working at the Sierra Club in Washington, DC. Around 2003-4. It was my first job out of graduate school and I was young, trying everything I could think of to get my bearings and learn from others. I attended one of the first EcoHours at Teaism – I can’t remember the speaker – and a meeting that followed for women interested in getting involved. It seemed like a no brainer to go and meet other women who were interested in the things I was. I knew that networking would be important in my career and this seemed like a great place to start. I had no idea then that I would meet women who would become some of my best friends while also gaining leadership experience I couldn’t have gotten anywhere else and getting to work with hundreds of other women while they found their way on their career path.
How were you involved in EcoWomen?
DC EcoWomen captured much of my volunteer time for the better part of 15 years. I started on the DC chapter board (when it was just EcoWomen!) by joining the communications committee and helped create event signs, materials, managed the email list, and updated the first DC EcoWomen website (oh how far we have come!). From there, I became the chair of the committee, launching a whole website rebuild (what a job that was!), helping with the logo contest, and shifting our email list from our old fiscal sponsor over to our own ownership – a more challenging process than you might imagine. At other points in my time on the DC Board, I managed programming, hosted events, was EcoHour Chair, and I am sure a ton of other things. When the DC EcoWomen board split, I stayed with the chapter while many of the other women I had been serving with for years went to launch our national EcoWomen structure so we could build more chapters and help more women in other cities come together and learn from and support one another. A year after that, I became President of the DC EcoWomen board. My main role there, aside from keeping our growing program going and increasing our membership, was to ready the chapter for national growth as we received our 501c3 status and Articles of Incorporation and set out to open new chapters. I took about a year off from EcoWomen volunteering when I had my first child and then was asked to join the National EcoWomen Board of Directors. A year or so later, I became President of that Board, stepping off after my tenure concluded. My day job has mostly been all about organizing, lobbying, and political strategy. EcoWomen gave me the opportunity to put other skills I have to work while learning new ones, like managing a budget, coding a building a website, managing others, strategic planning, and event planning. It also has given me loads of confidence in my career path knowing that there is a whole community of women that I helped build, ready to network with should I need to find that next big gig.
What sparked your interest in the environment/conservation?
I have nearly always had an interest in the environment and conservation. I come from a family of scouts and joined Girl Scouts as a Daisy when I was four. I love to camp and was usually the one making the plans and/or cooking for everyone. I earned a Silver Award before transferring over to Boy Scouts in their co-ed Explorer program where I was a High Adventure Explorer and earned the two highest awards a woman could earn at the time in Boy Scouts. I was a board member of the St. Louis Boy Scout Council, one of the nation’s largest councils. I loved planning the giant jamboree events where hundreds of kids would camp for a weekend. I also spent my summers in Wisconsin at Camp Ramah where I often could be found lakeside watching the eagles swoop down and catch their meal. I loved those two months every year not just for the friends but also for all of the outside time it meant. But as much as I love my time outdoors, I knew early on that nature was in trouble. I was the kid who checked the cans of hairspray for the one without HFCs and collected aluminum cans in the garage until we had enough of them to load into the car and bring to the truck that weighed them and paid us a penance for them to be recycled. I did a science project testing how long it would take to break down a paper grocery bag versus a plastic one when placed in my home compost pile (surely you know the answer to that!). In high school, I knew that I wanted to do something with environmental work. At first I thought that was being a scientist and doing field work, but I quickly determined in college that my heart was much more into the politics and advocacy side of the movement. I started the environmental organization, Free the Planet! GW at George Washington University in 1999 or so. I went to Free the Planet! training in the summer where I learned grassroots advocacy tactics and the basics of the issues I would then spend my career working on, and then came back as a trainer for students coming up behind me.
What are you doing in your career now?
I currently work for Resource Media at the intersection of state and federal energy, environmental, justice, labor, and other advocates helping to coordinate across states and organizations. I get to hear what everyone is working on, pitch in to help when I have the capacity, offer suggestions for ways to amplify work that’s already being done, and identify gaps that need to be filled either by advocates or funders. It’s a unique role to play in the movement and one that I am very much enjoying. My days are filled with all sorts of interesting work – planning a digital ad buy or writing/editing an op-ed one minute, brainstorming new ways to get our messages out and new voices to carry those messages in a compelling way another minute, and an hour later working through the four dimensional chess that is political strategy. I have always said that I am a bit of a jack of all trades and have interests in so many aspects of climate, energy, law, policy, and advocacy. This job scratches so many of those itches and gives me the opportunity to work with so many people from so many backgrounds and perspectives all over the country – and beyond.
Do you have any advice for current EcoWomen?
Over the last fifteen or so years, I have met with probably a hundred women who have connected with me through EcoWomen. Usually the meetings are with women who are just starting their career but not all of the time. I have been asked why I am willing to spend so much time with early career women who just want to talk about their career trajectory. I can promise that it’s not for the coffee and tea! I always remind the person asking that our community is a small one and we all cross paths with one another at some point. Besides that, there are still many corners of the environmental movement where women need a leg up in the boys club. We have to help one another navigate those spaces. Further, I hope that women I have met with will remember even a small part of our conversation(s) and be eager to work with me in the future. Who knows, I might find myself working for one of them some day!
So my first bit of advice – talk to as many other women in your field (and the peripheries of your field) as you can. Make a list of who you met with. And to the best of your abilities, stay in some contact with them. You never know when you will need help and that list might come in handy. I love to know where the women I talk with land when they are looking for jobs. And when I am looking for a job, I always hope to see familiar names at the organizations to which I apply.
My second bit of advice is that women working in this field commit to showing what healthy work/life balance can look like to the best of our abilities. I feel like this is especially true as a parent of young children. This looks different for every woman. For me, it means saying no to tasks, assignments, and travel that I cannot fully commit to or conflicts with family commitments that I have already made. For me, it means talking about my kids – the good stuff and the things that can make my day hard – with my team so they see the whole me. Knowing our heads in part may be somewhere else, helps me and my team be real with one another and set reasonable expectations for our work. No matter how Type A, driven (or not) we are, we can all only do so much every day. Coming to work as a whole person (mom, cancer-survivor, parent-caregiver, pandemic puppy-parent, or whatever) can help set the stage for a more open work environment and allow everyone to set more reasonable expectations of what we all can and cannot do in the time we have together.