Women Protecting Wildlife

Audubon New York’s woman-led team is pushing conservation forward.

"I work closely with forestry professionals to improve habitat for forest birds, and it is a very male-dominated field. Although it’s not uncommon to be the only female at a meeting, I do see more women entering forestry, and hope there will be a gender balance in this natural resources profession soon." - Suzanne Treyger, Forest Program Manager pictured above

A female board chair and two vice chairs. A female executive director. A female director of conservation. A female policy manager. One incredible nonprofit guided by women's voices.

How is it that industry analysis continues to show a lack of gender diversity in STEM fields, yet here at Audubon New York, women are taking over the bird world?

A National Audubon Society news article points out, “Like most matters of importance, women have been integral to birding from the get-go. Female ornithologists drew attention to avifauna in the late 1800s, and suffragists helped the movement take off in the early 1900s. Today, 42 percent of U.S. birders identify as women… And yet men have the loudest voices and the most power in the industry.”

At our National headquarters, “the closer you get to the top of the birding, conservation, and academic ranks, the more the gender balance tips.”

Here at Audubon New York, the state office of the National Audubon Society, the (gender) roles are happily reversed. Out of a staff of 30 individuals working across science, fundraising, communications, policy, land management, wildlife rehab, and more, 20 are women– that’s 67%

Of course, we want to see overall trends change beyond our flock. But it’s not our goal to invite more women into conservation only to leave others out. Like migratory birds, we live in an ever-changing world, so we need to empower our best and brightest to reach for the sky.

What do the women of Audubon New York have to say?

Get their perspective on being a woman in conservation, and get inspired to act for birds and people! We might even have an opportunity for you to work with us.

Diana Wilson, Environmental Educator, Theodore Roosevelt Sanctuary and Audubon Center 
As someone who was once just a little girl who really, really liked animals, in a time when everyone’s conservation idols were men like Steve Irwin and Jeff Corwin, I know the incredible value of seeing people like you doing the sort of stuff you might want to do when you get older.

Last fall, I had the luck (and joy!) of being approached on the beach by a curious family with two young daughters on. They were curious as to what exactly I was looking at through my scope. Since I hadn’t actually begun doing the surveying part of my work, I was able to oblige their questions, and even let the daughters get a look in on the scope and binoculars, which they thought was just so cool! 

The eldest girl was very excited to tell me about her love of animals and how she was going to be a zookeeper for Halloween (a costume I had donned when I was her age!) and I was equally excited to tell her about Audubon and the work we do—work that she could do someday! In my job, it’s deeply rewarding to be able to give young women an example to cling to when looking into their own futures.

Yamina Nater-Otero, Program Coordinator, For the Birds!
I love that I teach a diverse group of students who live in urban areas that their own community is part of the larger environmental community. So many people think that cities and nature are mutually exclusive (myself included at one point) and I love that I get to help erase that idea.

Suzanne Treyger, Forest Program Manager
In my senior year at the University of New Hampshire, where I majored in Wildlife Management, I recall one of my professors stating that this was the first year that there was an equal number of men and women graduating with a wildlife degree. Up to that point, it had been a male dominated field - something I never thought about before. Now I realize how important it was for not only my graduating class, but for women pursuing any conservation profession. Now, I work closely with forestry professionals to improve habitat for forest birds, and it is a very male-dominated field. Although it’s not uncommon to be the only female at a meeting, I do see more women entering forestry, and hope soon there will be a gender balance in this natural resources profession, as I experienced with wildlife conservation.

Amanda Pachomski, Long Island Bird Conservation Program Manager
I’ve always loved science. As a high school student, I was that nerd who showed up to school early (at 6AM) so I could spend extra time studying physics. Then, I had no idea that “conservation biologist” was even a career option but in college I studied with incredible biologists, ecologists, and botanists and found my passion for field research and applied conservation. As a relatively young (under 30) female, I don’t necessarily fit within the general public’s perception of what a scientist looks like and that sometimes prevents people from taking me seriously (I've been addressed as “young lady” ), but overall my experience as a women in conservation has been very positive and I’m so grateful to work for and alongside so many women in conservation at Audubon. As the New York Women in Conservation internship program supervisor, I’ve mentored five young women and it has been a pleasure to keep in touch with our previous interns/technicians, connect them with new job opportunities, and watch them advance their careers.

Jillian Liner, Director of Conservation
Early in my career I was often the only woman sitting around a table or at a meeting. But now I find myself at meetings and working in partnership with groups that are mostly women. I was inspired by two botanists (a professor and a lab leader) as an undergraduate. They really mentored me and made me realize I could have a career in conservation. Recognizing that a mentor like that can have such an influence on a young person makes me happy that I can provide opportunities and connections for others.

How you can help, right now