Today is the International Day of Women and Girls in Science. At The Rivers Trust, we believe that the equal inclusion of women and girls in science is vital for the achievement of true science and gender equality. Progress has been made in this area, and we’ve been pleased to see the number of women in our own movement grow—but there is still a long way to go. Today, we want to celebrate some of the fantastic women in The Rivers Trust, and show the breadth of careers possible in the conservation sector.
In addition, we think it's important to note that access to education and careers in conservation is not equal for all women. A study in the US showed that 24 percent of doctorates awarded to black women were in STEM subjects. Despite this, only 5 percent of managerial jobs in STEM were held by black women and men combined. There are huge barriers which can prevent women of colour from thriving in STEM careers. At present, our movement does not truly reflect the diverse makeup of our society—but we are determined to change that. We have recently formed a Diversity and Inclusion Working group, and are working to build connections with diverse partners and organisations; carrying out a baseline survey of diversity within our movement to ensure that change is measurable; altering the way we write about and promote our jobs to attract a more diverse range of applicants; and carrying out an audit of our content to ensure that diversity is embedded within all of our messaging. Please see our policy page for more information. Heather Bell: I am a GIS Analyst at The Rivers Trust. I problem solve and tell stories with data to help make rivers healthier for people and wildlife. I studied Geography at school and University, but whatever your background is, this is a job that thrives on transferable skills. There are lots of free courses online to get you started. If you are curious about how the world works, and like to think creatively then you could find being a GIS Analyst really fulfilling too Alison Furber: As a member of the data and evidence team, I work with local Trusts and other partners to interpret and communicate data about complex environmental systems. My journey to The Rivers Trust was convoluted. I originally trained as a structural engineer and have since worked in academia, on water and sanitation projects in Ghana and as a flood risk mitigation engineer. I joined The Rivers Trust last year because I am passionate about using my skills to support better natural resource management decisions for healthier river environments. Emily Cooper: I'm Emily, and I work in the communications team at The Rivers Trust. My job is very varied, but my core goal is to raise awareness of the threats facing rivers - and more importantly, to encourage everybody to value them! I did my undergraduate degree in Biological Sciences, then went on to do a Masters degree in Environmental Bioscience, where I developed a real passion for science communication. While the conservation sector is still very male-dominated in places, things are beginning to change. My hope for the future is that the sector becomes an inclusive space for all women to thrive. Michelle Walker: I'm Deputy Technical Director, and I jointly head up our data and evidence team, managing staff and projects, writing funding bids and developing our technical support strategy whilst making sure that I still keep my hand in at the 'coal face', using GIS, models and monitoring to help our member trusts and the CaBA network take an evidence-based approach. A BSc in Environmental Management, an MSc in GIS and over 15 years' experience applying GIS to environmental management led me to The Rivers Trust in 2010. I've just celebrated 10 years in my job! I love the variety, the challenge and the sense of achievement that comes from being part of an inspiring movement. Christine Colvin: I was lucky to find my water passion underground, as a hydrogeologist. I loved researching semi-arid ecosystems & catchment management in South Africa, and later the work with WWF & partners to secure water source areas. Now I'm working with the Rivers Trust, supporting powerful partnerships and building a socially relevant, science-based story of our resilient rivers. Years ago I was often the only woman on a drilling site, or on a panel of scientists, and thankfully that has changed. I'm grateful to the women who were our pathfinders, but also to this generation who are much braver in challenging not just what we can do, but how we do it, & demanding a much deeper level of inclusion. Becca Duncan: After doing an English degree and an MA in Arts Management, I'm not your stereotypical woman working in conservation. I was an events and PR professional determined to work for a cause that I believed in, and that's how I ended up at The Rivers Trust. I can honestly describe it as one of the best things that's ever happened to me, and I am passionate about exploring ways to help our message reach as wide an audience as possible, in as many ways as possible. Catherine McIlwraith:I'm Catherine, a GIS Analyst at the Rivers Trust. I initially did an BSc in Ecology and MSc in Entomology before moving to The Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust to work on Constructed Wetlands. I then spent several years at Eden Rivers Trust before starting my current role.Header image credit: Moy Williams