Charities have long been considered a female-dominated sector, with research showing that women make up about two-thirds of the non-for-profit workforce in the UK. Even more promising is the environment sector’s strong alignment to the Sustainable Development Goals which outwardly champion diversity.
Despite this, globally, women are more likely to be affected by environmental issues such as climate change, than men1. This is mainly due to the social, cultural, and economic differences that different genders face, i.e., globally, women are more likely to live in poverty. It’s a challenge we are still facing today, however bringing different voices to light and exchanging experiences, is just one way we can open the floor to environmental inclusivity.
As part of International Women’s Day #BreakTheBias, we asked the PECT team about their experiences with inclusivity within the sustainability sector. Hear from:
Stuart (Director of Operations), Karen (Health & Wellbeing Lead), Maria (Project Coordinator), Carly (CEO), David (Senior Environmental Consultant) and Libby (Natural Environment Trainee)
Find out what they had to say below:
How did you get into the sustainability sector?
Stuart – I got into the sustainability sector accidentally. I have always worked in the environment field, mostly with data, designing processes and displaying information. My move to sustainability was driven by my desire to work collaboratively with teams to solve problems and see real solutions delivered on the ground. Throughout my career, I have worked with and for some exceptional female leaders who have helped to shape my career direction, passion for sustainably and influenced me as a leader. Alongside Carly, there is also a wider range of female influences within PECT, which have also helped enthuse me to be a better team member, manager, and champion sustainability including both team members and the through the governance of the charity.
Karen – I quit my job as a chef when I was 40 and went to university to do a degree with a view to going into the sustainability sector. I was interested in behaviour and the environment, so my dissertation looked at the Risk Society and its attitudes to climate change. During the summer of my third year, I undertook work experience with Peterborough City Council’s Environment Team, I was overseen by a female manager who made sure I got a varied view of the environmental work going on in the city, as part of this placement I spent a week researching at PECT for the then CEO, Rachel Huxley. When I was nearing the end of my degree, I applied for a job at PECT, took the role, and 13 years later I’m still here!
Maria – From a young age, geography engaged me above all other subjects at school. My geography teachers made learning enjoyable and explained the subject incredibly. As well as this, my mother and both my grandmothers taught me to respect the natural environment as it is so deeply rooted in our own wellbeing.
Carly – I was always interested in the subject and took a career change in my late twenties to get into the sector. I worked alongside an incredible colleague called Gemma in my first sustainability role. I learnt so much from her and loved working together. We had a lot of fun on the project and once had to dress as superheroes in public!
Why did you get into sustainability?
Karen – I’ve been interested in environmental issues since the 1990s and was regional coordinator for Greenpeace for a while back then. Back then the hole in the ozone and pollution were the main concerns, the term climate change hadn’t been invented and people ‘like me’ were seen as weirdos and agitators. Over the years the discourse has changed but the one thing that has stayed the same for me is a hope that my kids and grandkids will recognise that I’ve tried really hard to live my life sustainably and do all I can to protect our home, planet earth, from environmental decline and the devastating effects of climate change.
Libby – I wanted to get into sustainability because I value the uniqueness of ecosystems and living organisms. I want to protect and conserve the environment. If we want to improve inclusion and support women, I feel that it’s important to understand ecofeminist theory. I believe that both issues should be tackled simultaneously if we want to make real progress.
David – At the time as a new parent, I wanted to do something that would protect the future for my daughter, both in terms of her future prospects and tackling the environmental issues that were still not being discussed in the mainstream, whilst developing a career that would support us as a family.
How do you feel equality could be improved in the environment/ sustainability sector?
Carly – I recently took part in a Careers Day for a secondary school. I think it’s important that careers in sustainability are talked about with all students from an early age. So many of the students I met were passionate about environmental and social issues, so it was great to talk about the benefits of working in the sector and what some of the real jobs look like.
Libby – I think the best way to improve inclusion is to spend time listening to the perspectives of environmentalists and support their creativity. We should encourage our peers and community members, valuing each person’s unique skills and traits.
David – Most in the sustainability/ environmental sector subscribe to the tenements of the Sustainable Development Goals, which champions equality, so it is a great sector to work in, in this regard. However, there still feels that engineering and technical roles are mostly held by men. It would be great to see this shift to a more diverse demographic.
Stuart – As the only male member on a range of project teams, I don’t think it’s about gender but about the personalities, experience and expertise that makes up any team.
Karen – Most of my work is with, and has been with, women, so I haven’t faced a lot of the sexism that other sectors may have. I do think that the pay gap for traditional corporate roles and the third sector could be improved. ‘But let’s face it if we’re working in the third sector, we’re not in it for the money’ is a mantra I’ve heard a lot over the years and I’d love to this change, after all the work we do is every bit as important as other corporate work.
Maria – I believe that making environmental knowledge more accessible and allowing for every voice to be heard is vital. Ensuring that everyone has an equal chance to learn about sustainability and to reach their own environmental goals, will help us create a better world as we can learn a lot from each other.
What’s one piece of advice for a female-identifying individual wanting to get into the sustainability/ environment sector?
Stuart – Just do it – there are so many green skill sets needed to move us towards a just transition.
Maria – You can do more than you think you can. Remember that your voice is important, and confidence is key!
Carly – When we are recruiting, the main things I am looking for are enthusiasm and the ability to grasp a concept quickly and run with it. If this sounds like you then our sector definitely needs you!
Libby – Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. Get as much practical experience as possible and take up learning opportunities.
Want to work or volunteer for PECT? Get in touch at [email protected].