Women of WWF-Australia

Women of WWF-Australia for International Women's Day © WWF-Australia

Celebrating the amazing women in science at WWF-Australia

25 Jan 2022

Keywords
  • innovation
  • women

International Day of Women and Girls in Science is on February 11, and this year’s theme is “Equity, Diversity and Inclusion: Water Unites Us”. At WWF-Australia, we have incredible women working in science to make a positive impact not only in the environment and conservation space but also in their daily lives.

We asked some of these women how they got to where they are today, their proudest achievements and challenges, and their advice for other women wanting to work in science.

Read on to be inspired!


International Womens Day - Dr Romola Stewart © WWF-Australia

Dr Romola Stewart

HEAD OF EVALUATION AND SCIENCE, WWF-AUSTRALIA
Dr Romola Stewart’s passion for connecting people with nature led her to study for a PhD at the University of Queensland, where she wrote a thesis on marine park planning. Now, as the Head of Evaluation and Science at WWF-Australia, she has the ‘perfect job’ of bringing together scientific and Traditional Knowledge to become a solutions-focused organiser.

As a woman, what’s it like working in science?
I’ve had many positive female role models in the sciences and particularly in the natural sciences. I was really fortunate to do my postgraduate studies with an amazing group of women and I’m so proud of what they’ve achieved. I think women tend to underestimate their abilities. I hear a lot of women in the sciences talk about ‘imposter syndrome’ and doubting themselves. It's important to back yourself – don’t be afraid to step up because your contribution is an important one.

Have you faced gender bias in science, and if so, how have you overcome it?
Gender equality means building a culture where people feel safe to be seen for who they are. Our social and work environments are important in shaping our sense of self, so I believe we all have a role to play to ensure that civil society provides equal opportunity for all. My challenge is to drive positive change and embrace a gender-equal mindset.

What’s your advice for women who want to work in science?
Be passionate, lead yourself and don’t feel you have to do everything this week!

 


International Womens Day - Caitlin Smith © WWF-Australia

Caitlin Smith

MARINE SPECIES CONSERVATION OFFICER, WWF-AUSTRALIA

Caitlin Smith worked as WWF-Australia’s Marine Species Conservation Officer with a focus on how climate change and pollution affect marine turtle populations. Caitlin’s love for science and marine life has seen her complete a BSc in Marine Science, MSc in Marine Biology and Ecology and she is now focusing on her PhD in ecotoxicology.

Have you faced gender bias in science, and if so, how have you overcome it?
I almost didn’t apply for my position at WWF as I was missing one key requirement posted on the job description. Then I was reminded of a statistic that men will apply for a job when they've only ticked off 60% of job requirements, whereas their female counterparts will only apply if they've achieved 100% of them.

I thought to myself, there's no way I'm letting a man with less experience and qualifications than I do get that job, so I applied and the rest is history. So I think my biggest challenge has been to stop underestimating myself and stop questioning my abilities and try to strive in my career with determination and no regrets.

What is a challenge you have faced while working in science?
I choose to challenge myself every day by being motivated to seize every opportunity thrust in my direction. Did you know that only 3% of leadership roles in science are held by women? My goal is to hold a leadership position in academia/research and help push that 3% to 50%.

What’s your advice for women who want to work in science?
Be relentless, never give up, don't doubt yourself, take every opportunity you can get your hands on and never take no for an answer.


International Womens Day - Rosie Roslett-King Quote © WWF-Australia

Rosie Goslett-King

WOMEN RANGERS ENVIRONMENTAL NETWORK COORDINATOR, WWF-AUSTRALIA

Rosie started her career caring for Country as a volunteer bush regenerator. She studied Conservation and Land Management and became a ranger in the Illawarra region - an incredible opportunity that allowed her to move closer to her Yuin mob. Now, as WWF-Australia’s Women Rangers Environmental Coordinator, Rosie is working to advocate for the crucial role Indigenous women play in caring for Country.

Have you faced gender bias in science, and if so, how have you overcome it?
Throughout my career, I’ve challenged dated notions that ranger work or any outdoor fieldwork is better suited to males. Women rangers make up less than 25% of the Indigenous workforce, which means aspects of our role in caring for Country cannot be fulfilled, with IPAs (Indigenous Protected Areas) making up 46% of Australia’s natural reserve system. This inequality is a loss for all Australians.

As a woman, what’s it like working in science?
During my career, I’ve found myself in the minority as a woman, in both Indigenous and Western spaces. I’ve often been underestimated and felt the need to work twice as hard as the men in order to prove my worth. Although it’s been tiring, it has forced me to be courageous, resourceful, determined and able to reach my goals.

What’s your advice for women who want to work in science?
Stand up for yourself, your rights and your opinions, seek to support and seek support from other women.


International Womens Day - Anorah John © WWF-Australia

Anorah John

INNOVATION PROJECT SPECIALIST, WWF-AUSTRALIA

A self-confessed millennial who loves music, Anorah started her career at PwC in Financial Services Assurance. Since then, she’s been a finalist at several hackathons focused on tech for social and environmental impact. In 2017, she was a winner of WWF-Australia’s Future Cities Hackathon and now leads WWF’s Impactio - a tech platform enabling collaboration between impact ventures, subject matter experts and support.

What is a challenge you have faced while working in science?
I’m reminded of my mother and grandmother, who in such different circumstances chose to challenge gender inequality. Having migrant parents, I had the privilege of watching them evolve and grow in this new environment. When people say that a change of mindset is just too difficult to achieve I challenge that and I challenge myself because of this transformation I’ve witnessed. It’s because of them that I’m here creating an impact through the work I do today. I hope to keep up that legacy of choosing to challenge and break some glass ceilings in the process.

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a woman, and how did you overcome it?
The biggest challenge was feeling like an imposter in many of the conversations that I was a part of. This nervousness emerged from not seeing many people that looked like me in the rooms that I was speaking at, or at the decision-making table. It’s really inspiring that this is starting to change, and across the industry we’re beginning to have conversations about the systemic nature of marginalisation and what we can do about it.

The way I overcame it was by acknowledging that my experiences are valid with their own set of challenges, and viewing what I do as a stepping stone for something much bigger than me as an individual.

What’s your advice for women who want to work in science?
To women wondering whether to get more involved in this space - a diversity of being, opinion and voice are what’s going to help us solve the disruptive challenges that we have today. It’s a nuanced understanding of the complex systemic issues and collaboration that's going to create the accelerated progress we need.

We live in a unique time. Pivotal conversations are being had at scale in different ways around the world. I’d encourage you to jump into the conversations, catch the wave and ride it.


International Womens Day - Dr Rochelle Steven © WWF-Australia

Dr Rochelle Steven

SPECIES CONSERVATION PROJECT COORDINATOR, WWF-AUSTRALIA

Dr Rochelle Steven worked as WWF-Australia’s Species Conservation Project Coordinator in Southwest Australia, with a deep passion to protect Australia’s unique biodiversity. Rochelle studied a BSc in Ecology and Conservation Biology at Griffith University, where she continued her PhD in Birdwatching Tourism and Conservation. Before working in conservation, she had a decade-long career in sales and retail. Her multidisciplinary background has given her an edge in helping to raise the profile of conservation.

Have you faced gender bias in science, and if so, how have you overcome it?
The main gender bias I’ve challenged is to choose to not have children, which many still see as the ultimate achievement and contribution a woman can make to society. In fact, choosing to not have them is the ultimate contribution one can make to the conservation of biodiversity!

As a woman, what’s it like working in science?
One of the areas I’m most passionate about is sharing my love of nature with as many people as possible! Whether that be via radio or public speaking engagements, it’s wonderful to be able to tell exciting stories about the unique flora and fauna of Australia. As a woman, I think our nurturing and sometimes emotional manner makes us especially well placed to tell those stories and connect with an audience in a deeply engaging way. It doesn’t always make for an effective message when it’s embedded in a negative or science-heavy tone.

 

What’s your advice for women who want to work in science?
Don’t be afraid to wear your heart on your sleeve when you’re trying to connect with people about the environment. By the same token, don’t be so overly emotional that you lose an opportunity to deliver factual, evidence-based information, but aim to share in a way that showcases your passion and enthusiasm for nature. Work hard, take every opportunity to learn and find ways to tell stories about what you’ve learned to as many people as possible – even if it’s just telling your barista about a wasp that tries to mate with an orchid! That stuff is so cool!


International Womens Day - Katinka Day © WWF-Australia

Katinka Day

NO PLASTICS IN NATURE POLICY MANAGER, WWF-AUSTRALIA

Katinka’s strong background in advocacy has seen her work across a range of issues to keep companies accountable and ensure government policy fairly accounts for the needs of all people, animals and the environment. As WWF-Australia’s No Plastics in Nature Policy Manager, she is urging governments to take action on plastic pollution.

Have you faced gender bias in science, and if so, how have you overcome it?
I cannot stress the importance of speaking out against discrimination. Discrimination can be subtle, making it harder to call out so I often ask myself what more I could do to break the cycle. As someone who benefits from privilege in many aspects of my life, I think it’s really important to acknowledge this and ask myself how I can better promote a diversity of women’s voices.

What is a challenge you have faced while working in science?
Early in my career, when I worked in the corporate sector, I felt that I was predominately judged on my gender and age. I also witnessed many instances of female managers being treated differently, which set a negative expectation for what it was like to work in this field as a woman. I ultimately left the corporate world, but I think it’s really sad that there are still work environments where women don’t have the confidence and aren’t treated fairly or safely. This has to urgently change if we are going to address gender bias and inequality in the workplace.

What’s your advice for women who want to work in science?
Passion is so important. If you want to work in this space, then demonstrating why you want to work in the industry is very important. If you’re coming from a different sector, that’s great as diversity of experience is really valued, but if you can also demonstrate that you’ve volunteered in this space or have a genuine interest in the outcomes you are trying to pursue, I think that always sets people apart.


International Womens Day - Dr Kita Ashman © WWF-Australia

Dr Kita Ashman

THREATENED SPECIES AND CLIMATE ADAPTATION ECOLOGIST, WWF-AUSTRALIA

Dr Kita Ashman has a background in spatial dynamics and threatened species recovery and management. She studied wildlife and conservation biology as an undergrad, did an honours degree in evolutionary biology (on moths!) and a PhD in wildlife ecology focusing on koala spatial dynamics. Her expertise brings a wealth of knowledge to WWF-Australia in helping threatened species management.

Have you faced gender bias in science, and if so, how have you overcome it?
I’ve chosen to challenge gender bias and inequality by increasing my understanding of the issues faced by women and by giving back where I can. This means reading powerful and eye-opening books, sparking new conversations with friends and family, and supporting a charity that focuses on addressing equality for girls and women.

I aim to challenge the way we think, the way we act and the way we treat each other. In doing this, I hope to challenge myself and others around me to actively work at shifting the usual narrative towards a more inclusive and fairer one.

What is a challenge you have faced while working in science?
I moved out of home at a pretty young age because of domestic violence. As a young woman with a few years of high school left to complete, it was pretty challenging to take the first step towards getting myself into a better living situation but I’m so glad I did. The experience taught me very quickly how to be self-sufficient, it gave me a great level of resilience and taught me the importance of seeking out support when I needed it. I think I got through the experience by backing myself, working hard to stay academically and financially afloat, and from an incredible amount of support from a few hard-working women in my life.

What’s your advice for women who want to work in science?
In science, particularly conservation, my experience has been that it’s about 50/50 qualifications and connections. Starting out, what that meant for me was getting the pieces of paper and experience I needed to be able to work in-the-field but also volunteering a lot and being open to relevant side gigs to build a network of connections within your science field. I genuinely believe that if you set your heart and mind on achieving something, the list of things you won’t be able to achieve is actually pretty short. So believe in yourself, work hard, connect widely and most importantly, enjoy yourself.


International Womens Day - Tanya Pritchard © WWF-Australia

Tanya Pritchard

LANDSCAPE RESTORATION PROJECT MANAGER, WWF-AUSTRALIA

Growing up in the country, Tanya has always had a love for the natural world. She studied Environmental Science at university and went on to work in Conservation Land Management at multiple organisations. Now, she’s working to help restore Australia’s landscape with WWF-Australia.

Have you faced gender bias in science, and if so, how have you overcome it?
Something I strive to bring attention to is acknowledging the achievements of women in the sciences. In conservation, both leadership and operational roles are incredibly important, and there are so many wonderful women who deserve recognition for the amazing work they do. I hope we can encourage more women to apply for all types of industries that might be historically male-dominated and strive to be their best!

As a woman, what's it like working in science?
I find working in science incredibly inspiring. While it can be challenging, it’s so rewarding to see a project you’ve spent months working on be successful. Whether it’s getting approved funding to save an important area of biodiversity or personally releasing a rehabilitated animal into the wild, I love every part of what I do. Science is an excellent area to work in as a woman as you’re always surrounded by so many other incredible women!

What’s your advice for women who want to work in science?
Any woman interested in starting a career in a science field should seek out a female mentor they admire. A mentor can teach you so much! Like in any industry, it’s so important to feel supported. A woman with experience in your passions can help nurture your development and always offer advice!


International Womens Day - Rachel Lowry © WWF-Australia

Rachel Lowry

CHIEF CONSERVATION OFFICER, WWF-AUSTRALIA

Born with the nature-loving gene, some of Rachel’s earliest and happiest memories involve being in the presence of wildlife and nature. With two BScs in Science and Education, she’s found herself working in a number of world-leading zoos for close to two decades. Now, as WWF-Australia’s Chief Conservation Officer, she’s putting in place solutions that benefit both people and nature.

Have you faced gender bias in science, and if so, how have you overcome it?
I believe any future worth striving for requires hard work, and can rarely be achieved alone. Each time we rise to a challenge we grow. I choose to challenge gender bias and inequality by identifying it and making it visible, which often means calling it out for what it is. Also, by listening to those experiencing it, and by championing the path that is just and fair. By opening discussion on discrimination in science, I hope to help build to a future where gender bias is a thing of the past.

What is a challenge you have faced as a woman?
Perhaps it was my entry into parenthood. After years of trying to start a family without landing my baby-shaped prize, I decided to step into my first Executive role. I was the youngest on the team and felt the pressure that comes with proving oneself in a new role. In my first month on the job, I discovered I was going to have a baby after all! Hooray. But ohhh.

Navigating that year as a first-time Executive and first-time mother was hard. However, it could’ve been a lot harder had it not been for the unwavering support of my CEO at the time. A woman upon whose shoulders I stand and whose generosity I work hard to pay forward.

As a woman, what’s it like working in science?
It’s terrific. I get to work with a group of women and men who are striving to secure a better future for people and nature. The type of people who commit themselves to that mission are often amongst those whose values are well aligned with equity for all. Occasionally, albeit less and less, I come across a stakeholder whose expectations of a senior leader is a man in a suit. I allow that to say more about them than it does about me and work to find common ground to connect on before prejudices derived from stereotypes are able to derail our shared goal. Stereotypes, as we know, extend well beyond gender, and if we don’t choose to constructively challenge them, we risk reinforcing them.

What’s your advice for women who want to work in science?
Do it. With all the confidence, grace and grit you can muster.


International Womens Day - Monica Richter © WWF-Australia

Monica Richter

SENIOR MANAGER - LOW CARBON FUTURES, WWF-AUSTRALIA

Trained as an economist and social ecologist, Monica has worked for the not-for-profit sector for many years. Her Masters in Social Ecology inspired her to specialise in corporate social responsibility, landing her in an environmental NGO. At WWF-Australia, she works with businesses, investors, innovators and governments to accelerate the uptake of low carbon solutions.

Have you faced gender bias in science, and if so, how have you overcome it?
I think it’s important to speak out when I see behaviour that goes against my values of gender and cultural inclusion. There’s still a long way to go to make Australia more equitable, but I believe through my actions and engagement with businesses I can demonstrate the power of diverse voices at the table.

What is a challenge you have faced while working in science?
When I lived in Solomon Islands in the early 1990s, I wanted to join the Rotary Club of Honiara. I worked for the Australian Government in a business-facing position and thought joining the club would allow me to make a contribution to the local community. Before I was allowed in as a woman, the members had to have a private members’ vote to determine whether I could join. Thankfully I was allowed in and have been knocking down doors ever since.

What’s your advice for women who want to work in science?
If you have a passion for science, you will be welcome. Be confident that you have a role to play should you wish to.


International Womens Day - Nicky Ison © WWF-Australia

Nicky Ison

ENERGY TRANSITION MANAGER, WWF-AUSTRALIA

For over half her life, Nicky has been passionate about solutions to climate change. Her first major high school research project was on how households can reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. She completed a double degree in Environmental Engineering and Arts and has since worked to help councils, governments, communities and companies to transition to clean energy. As WWF-Australia’s Energy Transition Manager, she’s leading the Renewables Nation program to make Australia a renewable export superpower!

Have you faced gender bias in science, and if so, how have you overcome it?
Working in the male-dominated field of energy has its challenges. The majority of public commentators on energy transition that you see on TV, read in the paper and hear on the radio are men. Yet so many of the people doing the practical work on driving clean energy solutions are women. I’m part of a growing number of women putting themselves out there and supporting each other to do so.

However, as a white woman of privilege, I know that this isn’t good enough. The climate movement and clean energy commentators are overwhelmingly white. After a year that has at last put racial justice, in Australia and around the world, in focus as perhaps never before, we must do better. I strive to support more women of colour to have the platform they need to prosecute the climate and racial justice solutions they’re working for.

What is a challenge you have faced while working in science?
People I trusted actively working to diminish the importance and value of my work. To overcome this, I vented, I grieved, I got myself out of the situation of working with these people, and I backed myself, my ideas and my team and went forward without them.

What’s your advice for women who want to work in science?
Find people, particularly women, who will champion you and have confidence in you, even when you find it hard to have confidence in yourself. And remember that advocacy and creating change can be a career as well as a vocation, and it is a ‘proper job’, no matter what your conservative uncle might say.


International Womens Day - Krista Sinleton-Cambage

Dr Krista Singleton-Cambage

HEAD OF CLIMATE AND FOOD SECURITY, WWF-AUSTRALIA

Krista’s career has grown out of a fascination with international relations and international law, with a focus on bringing countries together to protect the environment and address climate change. She’s worked in the Australian Government on issues ranging from the law of the sea to Antarctica, as well as on how we can help people in vulnerable situations through better environmental practices with The Nature Conservancy in the United States.

She has worked with people from the global disability community, to remote communities in island nations, to African governments. Working on securing food and addressing climate change are the underlying challenges of our time and helping people to improve their well-being through healthy natural resources drives her every day.


Have you faced gender bias in science, and if so, how have you overcome it?
Women everywhere throughout history have challenged the status quo and worked to make positive changes in their societies. I'm inspired by their resolve, and every day I stand on the shoulders of all the women who broke ground in the environmental field and also in international settings. I have worked a lot in the United Nations system, and the 'halls of power' have traditionally been associated with listening to what men had to say. This has changed because women show up again and again, to talk about issues that matter - about food, water, health, inequality, and security. I'm privileged to be able to bring issues of resilience and strength into many different discussions and to work with women across the globe to deliver a common message.

What is a challenge you have faced while working in science?
In my career, the biggest challenge I’ve faced is not being heard. I’m a real consensus-builder, always mindful of how others are feeling and making sure everyone can participate in different contexts. When I come across situations where women with this approach are seen as not decisive or weak in some way, it can be very frustrating! I have overcome this by standing my ground, especially with men in senior positions – including heads of state – and making sure that my views are listened to, and considered. There are also times in traditionally male-dominated environments, such as agriculture and law – where women can still be overlooked. At times I resist the urge to make everyone comfortable (even though this can be hard!) and lean in to participate in – and make – decisions in ways that ensure equity.

As a woman, what’s it like working in science?
Working in the conservation field as a woman is an important opportunity for me to bring issues together in an integrated way. Issues that are good for people – clean water, nutritious food, stable environments – also provide the guidebook for what we need to do in conservation. The issues of wellbeing and what it means to live a balanced and healthy life are inseparable from the need to address climate change. By staying focused on the issues that can deliver good conservation outcomes, I know that I am also able to deliver outcomes that are good for people’s lives today and into the future.

What has been your biggest achievement so far?
One of my biggest achievements was bringing together people from local communities in island and coastal states from around the world to present their experiences and learnings to UN agencies, the World Bank, governments and major foundations at a world-first event in Tokyo. I led a team of people around the world for a few years to make it happen. Several women explained how they are empowering their communities – from Seychelles to Easter Island to the Coral Triangle – to protect their natural resources. But, most importantly, we all shared stories of vulnerability and lack of resources and huge needs in building skills and systems to ensure food security, climate adaptation, and environmental protection into the future. As a result of this gathering, communities have stayed connected across national boundaries and their ability to manage projects, financing, and food production has increased.

What’s your advice for women who want to work in science?
My advice for other women is to stay focused on your own core values and what you want to achieve. If you stay true to what you want to change in the world, opportunities will open up to work with others who share a similar drive. I love the motto, "She believed she could, so she did”. Don’t be intimidated to say when you see something differently, or have a different view – all views are needed to tackle the significant challenges we are facing and to indeed make the world a better place.

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