International Women's Day 2021: Women in conservation

Blog post by Meg Watts on 08 Mar, 2021
Today is a day of celebration and recognition for women across the world, but we’re taking a moment to spotlight some of the wonderful women working in Norfolk Wildlife Trust. Over the past week, I’ve interviewed five such women about their experiences and successes working in conservation: from starting out as determined, young conservationists, to dreams of Land Rover Defenders and visions of equitable futures.
Pamela Abbott with volunteers at NWT Thorpe Marshes

Pamela Abbott with volunteers at NWT Thorpe Marshes

While Pamela Abbott originally planned to be a Land Rover-riding ranger, her determination and passion drove her to become our CEO. As a UN-recognised leader in local and international conservation, Pamela advises other women to be ‘unswervingly determined’; to look at her leadership role and think ‘I can do that too’. Pamela sees her position as an opportunity to put the necessary conditions in place ‘so that everybody is able to exercise their talent to the benefit of wildlife and wild places’. This ranges from instating inclusive policies like improved pensions, paternity leave and adoption leave to providing size and gender-inclusive uniforms. She has also established the Women in Conservation Network: a ‘bank of people who believe in you’, dedicated to supporting and mentoring women in conservation.

One such talented woman fresh to working in conservation is Poppy Johal. For Poppy, an internship as the Wildlife Trusts’ new Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Intern was a golden ticket into a field she’s always wanted to work in. She’s delighted to be doing what she loves; ‘spreading a message of equality for an organisation that cares so much about the planet’. Poppy is focusing specifically on ‘getting more people of colour into nature’- tackling the boundaries that have resulted in under-representation in this sector.

Whilst Poppy may be working on a national scale, inclusivity and representation are vitally important on a local scale too. As the Warden for NWT Trinity Broads, Eilish Rothney has found that a team of ‘fantastic volunteers’ have been instrumental in helping her engage and liaise with the community, complete practical conservation work and monitor environments. Eilish has thoroughly enjoyed seeing ‘so many capable women coming into this profession’ in recent years, stating that there has been a definite ‘shift in biases’ within the conservation sector since she began working.

Pamela Abbott with volunteers at NWT Thorpe Marshes

Helen Baczkowska at NWT Thorpe Marshes, photo by Simon Parker (EDP)

Helen Baczkowska has also experienced ‘a variety of attitudes’ during her varied career in conservation. Helen is now a Conservation Officer working on sites of value for wildlife across Norfolk, but her fascination with nature began as a small child. Her parents did ‘the best thing they could ever do’ when they bought her a wildflower identification book. She started out teaching herself. When Helen started working in conservation in 1989 however, ‘most women in conservation at that time worked in education and outreach’. It required ‘quite a bit of determination’ to follow her interests; clearing ponds, building fences, drystone walling and working as a ranger. It’s a sentiment many of us may recognise: Helen feels ‘most herself’ outdoors, in wild spaces.

This article is just a snapshot of all the brilliant, diverse, talented women working within NWT and the wider Wildlife Trusts. Our voices and skills are most powerful when recognised, and encouraged. I personally look forward to many more women entering conservation; bringing their passion, tenacity and determination with them.

Meg Watts is NWT's Inclusivity Intern - a position made possible by the Green Recovery Fund.

Header image: Eilish Rothney at NWT Trinity Broads with volunteers, by Matthew Roberts
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