WRA Celebrates International Women’s Day 2022

Women comprise 51% of WRA’s staff and are vital contributors to the work we do as a company. WRA appreciates the leadership and contributions of our team!

International Women’s Day is Tuesday, March 8th, 2022. This year’s theme is #BreakTheBias

“The most important thing one woman can do for another is expand her sense of actual possibilities.”

Adrienne Rich

To honor the movement, we asked female colleagues from various departments and levels within the company whose individual actions make a difference for the environment and their community. Read on about their inspiring career paths and words of wisdom for the next generation of women leaders in the environmental industry.

Environmental Planner, Reida Khan, hiking in Pinnacles National Park, January 2022.

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

Reida: I am passionate about improving both the natural and built environment around us. I believe it is important to develop and enhance the built environment so that it is equally as beautiful, functioning, and sustainable as the natural one. It feels good to be a part of a company which thrives on doing just that. WRA helps me play my part in helping our society plan and develop in a more sustainable and environmentally conscious way. The world would be a better place if people took the time to consider and incorporate the natural environment into their day-to-day lives and surroundings.

If you could give yourself advice early in your career, what would it be?

Reida: I would reiterate the importance of networking and building relationships much earlier on in my career. I have learned that you have to believe in yourself, really fight for yourself, and put yourself out there so people can understand and value your worth. Confidence is key!

Marketing Manager, Angela Robinson, standing next to a Japanese Maple she petitioned to save from being cut down in front of the office at her first job in Architecture/Engineering/Construction marketing.

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

Angela: Join a professional organization that focuses on your role. Get involved, make friends, and keep in contact with those connections. Some of them will last, and some won’t, but I would not be where I am without the network of people that I met early in my career. Make sure you have a LinkedIn account and keep it up to date.

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

Angela: I think it is important for young women on the technical side to get involved in marketing and Business Development early on in their career, because it will inevitably increase their value and knowledge of our industry. WRA encourages staff at all levels to get involved in Business Development, and I make sure to point this out when I do marketing orientation. This is one of the things that makes WRA unique!

What is a significant step you took to building your career?

Angela: This might be surprising, but leaving for two years to be a stay at home mom for my oldest child gave me a different perspective on my career and the industry. When I went on maternity leave, I was burnt out and not excited about work. I was adamant that I wasn’t going back into the Architecture/Engineering/Construction industry because I thought all companies would be the same. I toyed around with different career paths I could pivot to, and even considered going to hypnotherapy school (yes, really).

Once I came to my senses and realized that I should give the industry one more try, I went to a mixer hosted by my local marketing professionals organization. I ended up leaving that night with an invitation to apply for a position at a small, local firm. Working there made me realize that all companies are not the same, and there are many variables that contribute to company culture. With this new perspective, I was able to figure out for the first time what I really wanted from an employer, not just what I could offer them. WRA is the fifth company I have worked for in the industry, and I’m happy to say I’ve found the right fit culturally, and professionally. 

Environmental Planning Director, Greta Brownlow, exploring a street fair in Barcelona.

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

Greta: I’m passionate about creating and maintaining thriving communities for all. To me this means providing things like housing and community amenities for all types of people. This includes providing people with opportunities to access and appreciate open space and natural environments. I love a thriving city, but for an urban environment to truly thrive, people also need to be able enjoy the physical and emotional benefits of the natural environment – whether that’s the ability to leave the city to access these benefits, or to have elements of the natural environment weaved into urban settings. So, I’m very excited about all of the planning, restoration, and mitigation projects WRA is involved in that help foster healthy relationships between the built and natural environment. 

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

Greta: Finding myself working side-by-side and being an equal contributor with people I’ve looked up to since the start of my career.

In ten years, what do you hope to have accomplished in terms of your work?

Greta: That’s a hard question! I’ve never been very good at the “where do you see yourself in X years” question. But, in general, I want to have amassed a ton of productive professional connections, helped the people I work with chart their own career paths, and contributed in meaningful ways to our collective environment. More specifically, I hope to have helped successfully start a program at San Jose State University, where I teach, that provides opportunities for graduate and undergraduate students to teach youth about planning and community development.

Community Resilience Planner, Cailin Notch, at a planning counter for a previous employer.

What female played an important role in shaping your career (female mentors, family members, etc.)?

Cailin: While I am lucky to have had many strong women role models in my life both personally and professionally, my mom is undoubtedly the most influential. She was the main income earner for my family and worked hard to provide opportunities growing up for my brother and me. In her role as a human resources professional, she ha exemplified hard work, diplomacy, and a high degree of emotional intelligence. Now that I am a professional myself, she is my biggest champion.

What is a significant step you took to building your career?

Cailin: Much like life itself, my journey to resiliency planning at WRA took many twists and turns. Perhaps the most significant step however was to become a CivicSpark Fellow with Fire Safe Sonoma and the Gold Ridge Resource Conservation District. I wasn’t a traditional fellow being further along in my career, but I knew that it was a great opportunity to make connections and to become engaged in climate adaptation work. I worked hard to make the fellowship meaningful to myself and the organizations which I served. Looking back, I’m so thankful for that opportunity. Not only did I make valuable connections at the two organizations, but it also led me to my current role with WRA.

Conservation Project Manager, Marlene Tyner-Valencourt, hiking in Glacier National Park.

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

Marlene: One of the most exciting things I have done in my career was attend a conference in China to talk about mitigation banking. As a “foreign expert” at the conference, I had the unique opportunity to speak with a Chinese government official who was in charge of land use planning decisions. In China, many restoration projects focus on planting only one or two species in monoculture, with the priority being erosion control rather than promoting habitat creation or overall ecological function. I chose to bring up how important ecological design is, and how species composition and considerations of landscape and historical ecology are so important for improving restoration outcomes and decreasing overall management costs over time. I am not sure if my advice or recommendations will make a direct difference, but I am proud that I used this opportunity to advocate on behalf of the environment in a beautiful and dynamic country.

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

Marlene: I strongly believe that the more we talk about the issues affecting women in the workplace amongst ourselves, the more we can develop a supportive and powerful community that can affect change. At WRA, I have attended several instances of our Professional Development group, which included a strong focus on sharing best practices and lessons learned for how to overcome many of the unique issues women face at work. When I was chair of the Leaders 2020 Steering Committee, we made a commitment to crafting a speaker schedule that lifted up women and people of color to ensure more equitable representation of our community’s leaders. At the personal level, I try to be myself and be honest and vulnerable with other women as much as possible about the challenges I have faced being a woman in our industry, especially more junior staff. I am also a new mom and have tried to talk openly and honestly with colleagues who are expecting their first child about my experience with pregnancy, maternity leave, and coming back to work. In the past I have benefited from working with women who were always open and honest about these issues and I want to pay it forward to others – I think everyone knows I am always available for a glass of wine and a kvetching session!

Biologist, Carla Angulo, in the field with her mentor, Dr. Katie Smith, WRA .

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

Carla: Always say yes to volunteering or field work, it’s never a bad idea to get mud on your hands. 

What are you working on at the moment? How do you think you’ll make a difference?

Carla: My master’s project, I plan to finish my degree in environmental management and continue with consulting. I hope to be part of how companies utilize consultants as they develop more consciousness within their infrastructure and expansions.

What female played an important role in shaping your career (female mentors, family members, etc.)?

Carla: Every woman in my life but primarily Dr. Katherine Smith, my mom and sisters, and my best friend Cristal. They all really helped me see and figure things out.

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. Revisit our 2021 blog here, and our 2020 blog here.