WRA Celebrates International Women’s Day 2023

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International Women’s Day is March 8th, 2023. This year’s theme is #EmbraceEquity. We are proud to say that women comprise 53% of WRA’s staff (a number that continues to increase steadily over time!) and are vital contributors to the work we do as a company. 

To honor the movement, we asked some of our colleagues to discuss their career paths, how they support and empower others, and provide words of wisdom for the next generation of professionals in the environmental consulting industry.

We appreciate each of our interviewees for providing us inspiration through sharing their stories, helping to make a positive lasting impression through their professional work, and lifting up others.


Jill McGrady, PhD, Senior Conservation Project Manager

What advice would you give to women who want to begin their own career in this industry?

Jill: Seek out opportunities to gain practical experience. When I was growing up, I took advantage of every opportunity to fuel my passion — from devouring Ranger Rick nature magazine in my childhood, to doing college research high in the mountains of Colorado and on a remote island in North Carolina, to learning to scuba dive when I turned 50, every opportunity offered benefits to grow — whether by gaining new skills, exposing me to new ideas and approaches, or developing connections in the field.

What progress do you think has been made in growing the number of women in the environmental consulting field?

Jill: I’m flipping the script on this question because the progress I’ve observed is in the mindset of the next generation of women in science. I have observed such intense ambition in women, with the expectation of a workplace that places priorities on equitability, inclusion, and flexibility. I’ve also seen a number of women with the self-assuredness to walk away from companies that lag in those areas that are important because there are always others (like WRA!) that place a premium on the values they hold important.

How do you support other women professionally and/or in their career development?

Jill: I make consistent efforts to check in on team members and discuss balancing work- and home-life priorities. I also (try to) model work-life balance by taking time off and setting boundaries so I avoid burnout and can be my best self when I am on the clock. Finally, I encourage women friends and colleagues to apply to positions for which they might consider themselves under-qualified. In the past when I’ve written job descriptions, they were wish lists of the skill sets I needed on my team — but depending on my interview questions, the qualifications of competing candidates, and other skills featured on someone’s resume, a candidate might be better qualified than the job posting alone might indicate. So I always encourage women to go for it!  

What advice would you give to someone who is early in their career?

Jill: Follow your passion. When I’m interested and curious about something,  I’m more enthusiastic about the subject matter and invest more of my time in learning about it. I’m more persistent when I have setbacks and I get to work with like-minded folks who have similar interests, concerns, and priorities.


Molly Curley O’Brien, Senior Community Resilience Planner

What are you passionate about and how does that tie into your role at WRA?

Molly: It’s always been about community and its interconnectedness to every facet of our lived experience and the environment around us. That has taken a lot of different paths throughout my career but at WRA and as Senior Community Resiliency Planner, I really care about how to thoughtfully and effectively bring people and money together to 1) get things done, and 2) get them done in a more resilient way for years to come. For example, it isn’t just about unlocking the right government grant, but rather how to use those dollars appropriately and efficiently to provide programs and resources that actually help and contribute. My vision is WRA can be a leader in implementing effective resiliency funding programing like this and be a partner that communities can trust to do a job well done.

Who is your favorite female superhero and why?

Molly: Every working mom on the planet is my superhero! Being up with kids all hours of the night, getting them off to school, then cranking out good work and providing encouraging and thoughtful discussion during meetings to then race out the door, pick kids up, get them fed and bathed and in bed at a reasonable time all while somehow finding time to brush your own teeth is nothing short than heroic. 

How do you advocate for women at work or in our industry?

Molly: Advocacy for women in the workplace is so multi-dimensional. I think, first and foremost, it is about just checking in with one another on a personal level. Work is busy and we can just go straight into the nuts and bolts of the day. Pausing to ask how others are doing is important, especially in a virtual working space.

More importantly, it is also about prioritizing intersectional feminism and making sure LGBTQ women, women of color, and women of other minority groups have equitable access to the resources and opportunities we all need in order to thrive in our workplace. As a white hetero woman with all its privileges, advocacy to me means continuing to learn, listen, pay attention, and use my voice to ensure those resources and opportunities – along with positive relationships – are equitably accessible and utilized.

Julia Conner, Document Specialist

What are you passionate about and how does that tie into your role at WRA?

Julia: I am passionate about continuously learning and growing both personally and professionally—for me those two aspects are intertwined. That passion impacts my role at WRA by guiding me to learn something new every day, and inspiring me to seek out challenges which are opportunities to improve.

What advice would you give someone who is early in their career?

Julia: No experience is ever a waste of time. You have to come to understand what aspects of your career you don’t enjoy in order to truly realize the ones you do—the environment you want to be in, the type of people you want to surround yourself with, what you are contributing to the community, and how you want to spend your time.

What has been the most exciting or rewarding moment in your career?

Julia: The most exciting moment in my career was the recent realization that I could combine my interest and background in publication and graphic design with my passion for learning about native plants and ecological communities into one role. Re-evaluating my career path starting with an industry shift has been one of the most rewarding moments thus far.

To learn more about WRA’s company culture, we invite you to read more about us here. If you’re interested in a career in environmental consulting or are already in the industry and have wondered what a more connected type of workplace might feel like, check out our job postings.