WRA Celebrates International Women’s Day 2020

Did you know women comprise over 40% of WRA’s staff? As we continue to expand, that percentage is steadily growing!

International Women’s Day is Sunday, March 8th, 2020. This year’s theme is #EachforEqual, with an emphasis on ‘collective individualism’ to create a gender equal world. 

“We are all parts of a whole. Our individual actions, conversations, behaviors and mindsets can have an impact on our larger society.”

To honor the movement, we asked our team to nominate a female colleague whose individual actions make a difference for the environment and their community. The overwhelming response led us to highlight not one but six outstanding women! Read on about their inspiring career paths and words of wisdom for the next generation of women leaders in the environmental industry.

GIS Senior Technician Mikia Weidenbach maps eelgrass beds off the coast of Belvedere Island.

What are you passionate about? How do your interests play into your role at WRA?

Mikia: I have always been passionate about improving the management of our natural resources. I grew up on this off-grid farm where we had to get our own water and power, and where I experienced first-hand the effort and resources that go into growing the food we eat. So it’s hard not to notice practices and behaviors that seem disconnected from that reality and feel needlessly wasteful. At WRA I get to work in and gain insight into the systems and regulations that govern that human-natural resource use interface.        

Wildlife Biologist, Katie Smith, PhD, conducting field research with a salt marsh harvest mouse.

How do you advocate for gender equality, both personally and professionally? 

Katie: I mentor and hire young women who are entering the field, and promote their work whenever possible.  I talk openly, honestly, and often about my experiences and what I think are good tricks for gaining a foothold in the field.  I serve on diversity committees and initiatives for professional organizations that I am a member of.   I encourage young women to find a niche to make themselves stand out in the crowd, and pass down ownership of small projects or portions of larger projects so that they have an opportunity to practice job skills, write publications, and demonstrate their value to potential future employers.

What advice would you have for other women pursuing careers in traditionally male-dominated field?

Katie: Be strong.  Speak up when you are the knowledgeable one at the table.  Push back if people question your authority.  As much as you can, cut folks out of your career who are not supportive.  Don’t waste time dealing with folks who resist acknowledging your value.  Find a supportive mentor and ally yourself with them.

Senior Restoration Ecologist Ashley Zavagno fishing for steelhead trout on the Smith River.

How does WRA support the professional development of women? In what ways would you love to see more organizational support?

Ashley: We have the Professional Development Group led by Tricia [Valcarcel] that brings together a lot of the awesome ladies at WRA to help support our professional development. I am also encouraged to see more and more women in leadership roles and recognition of different styles of leadership. I hope WRA can continue to support this trend and have more discussions about the professional development of women in the company and the challenges we face. 

What is one thing you wish you knew when embarking on your career?

Ashley: I wish I had accepted the importance of relationships and who you know in getting ahead much earlier on in my career. As an independent and technically-minded woman I always wanted my work and skills to speak for themselves, but I have since learned that you have to put yourself out there so people can see and understand your worth.

Regulatory Permitting Specialist Liz Allen braces Antarctic winds on a research assignment.

What advice would you have for other women pursuing careers in traditionally male-dominated field?

Liz: One thing I’ve learned from being a part of many male-dominated professional teams is that there’s no one ‘type’ of woman that can succeed in traditionally male-dominated fields. I have learned to be myself even when certain aspects of my personality or appearance vary greatly from that of the leadership. While it is often not easy to feel different from the group, it is important to know that being different is not only okay, but necessary for the continued lifting-up of all women in the workplace and beyond. 

How do you advocate for gender equality, both personally and professionally?

Liz: I work to advocate for gender equality in my personal life through the ‘lift as you climb’ motto. As I work through various barriers in my career, which are sometimes present due to a lack of effective mentorship or knowledge of a system, I strive to inform others of my experience to help them work through the same challenges, but hopefully with more information more seamlessly than I did. As we all continue down our career paths we inevitably gain more power; It’s important we use that power effectively to help others through the barriers that prevent diverse voices from rising into leadership roles.  

Leslie Allen, Senior Regulatory Permitting Specialist, serves her community as chair of the nonprofit Keep Oakland Beautiful.

What are you passionate about? How do your interests play into your role at WRA?

Leslie:  I’m passionate about creating a supportive and stimulating work environment and career path for biologists and other environmental resources professionals.  I was lucky enough to get exposure to all kinds of fieldwork and analysis early in my career, so I use my role as a Team Leader at WRA to try to create those opportunities for WRA’s up and coming staff.

How do you advocate for gender equality, both personally and professionally?

Leslie: I feel strongly about supporting my female colleagues who have babies and small children in whatever way I can. Ensuring that working moms are part of our professional mix is an important perspective to maintain and an important example to set for younger women and men on our staff.

Biologist Jemma Williams holds a sculpin during a fish salvage in Marin.

What are you passionate about? How do your interests play into your role at WRA?  

Jemma: I am passionate about connecting people to the environment,  and reducing the impact we have on it. I am fascinated by the ecological web that we are a part of, and I tend to understand it through both a scientific and artistic lens. This helps me in my work, as a lot of what I do is solving puzzles. I like solving problems/puzzles and I believe that in order to solve things most effectively, you must consider them from multiple angles. 

What is one thing you wish you knew when embarking on your career?  

Jemma: That the path is windy, and sometimes weird, and not always obvious, and it will all lead you right where you need to be. 

On behalf of all of us at WRA, happy International Women’s Day! We are proud to be an equal opportunity employer and prioritize diversity, equity and inclusion in all of our recruiting and cultural efforts. Want to join the team? Click here to view open positions at each of our offices.