Wildlifers WOWed by diversity in the field

A packed room of wildlifers, both women and men, turned out at the Hyatt Regency Albuquerque on Monday night for the Women of Wildlife (WOW) Networking Event at TWS’ 24th Annual Conference.

WOW is a community of TWS members who collaborate to highlight the importance of promoting women in the wildlife field and mentor them. The group organizes symposia, workshops and networking events to focus on women in wildlife.

“The more people show up at this event, the more it shows that women are as much a part of this profession as men,” said Claire Crow, a member of the ethnic and gender diversity working group who’s been attending WOW networking events for years.

Wildlife biologists, managers and students exchanged conversation about supporting women in the profession, seeking out advice, opportunities and shared experiences as they mingled with one another.

“As a native woman in wildlife, I believe I’m a steward of not only the land and its creatures, but also of the knowledge that needs to be passed down to future generations,” said Celina Gray, an undergraduate at Salish Kootenai College in Montana.

Gray, who came last year as well to connect with wildlifers who’re indigenous women or from other minorities, said the biggest obstacle hindering women like her from entering the wildlife profession is a lack of access.

“A lot of women don’t realize so many opportunities are out there,” she said.

Don Yasuda, who works with the U.S. Forest Service in California, served on Council when WOW formed in 2011.

“I’ve supported women in wildlife since the very beginning,” he said. “This embodies what a society needs to be focusing on, ensuring we’re inclusive and reaching out to all members. This is a way for us to recognize there are barriers we need to address but celebrate what we have done. I love the excitement and networking occurring here.”

Carol Chambers, a forestry professor at Norther Arizona University, helped establish WOW. She wanted participants to understand the accomplishments of women in the wildlife field, she said.

The room, mostly filled with women, broke into applause when Wini Kessler, this year’s Aldo Leopold Memorial Award recipient, walked in. Kessler is the second woman to win the award in the 67 years it’s been around.

“We want to represent diversity in the wildlife profession,” Chambers said. “We’re still 70-30. I want to see more women move into Council, more women making decisions.”