Birder's Guide

MAY 2016

Birder's Guide is the American Birding Association's newest publication. Each issue focuses on a key subject, providing tips from experienced birders on a wide variety of topics like Travel, Listing & Taxonomy, Gear, and Conservation & Community.

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Page 53 of 59

52 Birder's Guide to Conservation & Community | May 2016 Female Leadership in Birding Park. I was a little nervous to say yes, but Robin is a calm and reassuring mentor. Being a team leader is not just about know- ing birds. You have to organize, coordinate logistics, make decisions, and communi- cate. I've been leading this team for several years now, and it's still a thrill every time. Since then, others have further empowered me by asking me to co-compile another CBC and co-lead trips at a birding festival. There are already many women out bird- ing. We just need to empower them, as has happened with me. We can start by entrust- ing them to guide bird walks, training them to compile CBCs, and asking them to speak at festivals. This process holds true for in- creasing participation of any group of under- represented people. Here in Miami, our local Audubon chapter president is Hispanic, as are some of the local birding guides. This un- doubtedly has the effect of making Hispanic people feel more welcome in the birding community. The same phenomenon is true for women. The process is simple: Invite, re- spect, entrust, and empower. Megan Crewe Cape May, New Jersey As a professional birding tour guide, I know I'm in a very small group; I can count on two hands the total number of women I've ever met working full time in my profession. And that doesn't surprise me. The job requires me to be away from home for extended periods. It's hard enough to leave behind my hus- band, who's supportive of my career choice. Whether it's due to societal infuences or in- nate maternal instincts, I would have found it impossible to do the same to a child. I would not have made the same career choice had I had children, and I believe many other women (both those who already have chil- dren and those who hope to have children someday) feel the same. Heck, these days even male guides with children often cut way back on the number of days they lead. Getting women into leadership roles in our clubs and on our records committees will require a change in behavior on every- one's part. Intentionally or not, institutional sexism still exists in North American bird- ing circles, and we women are to blame for some of our lack of inclusion. It's my experience that we are far less likely to push ourselves forward for such appoint - ments (though we may grumble behind the scenes about not being considered), less likely to volunteer to lead club bird walks (unless our spouse is also leading), and less likely to volunteer to be the primary leader than to trail along at the back of the group. Fortunately, things are changing. When I frst joined the Delaware Valley Orni- thological Club in 1993, it had not yet been a decade since women were allowed to be members. Women made it onto the club's board within a few years of gaining mem- bership, and Sandy Sherman became the club's frst female president before the end of the century. That type of progress needs to be happening everywhere! Shawneen Finnegan Portland, Oregon Since I began birding in the early 1980s, the percentage of female birders has grown re- markably, both in quantity and quality. In recent years, there has been a noticeable and welcome increase in people seeking women's participation in leadership roles (including articles such as this one). And in- deed, leaders are the people who make a dif- ference. Great leaders are described as hav- ing a combination of attributes: confdence, good communication skills, a positive atti- tude, and the ability to inspire others. Women with these qualities are found on the boards of local bird clubs, out in the feld conducting surveys, banding, and getting degrees in ornithology. Yet when it comes to authoritative positions in the birding world, men continue to dominate. We are shy on female identifcation experts, tour leaders, keynote speakers, and records committee members. How do we change this? A great frst step is for birding event planners to seek out talented women as speakers, guides, and teachers. Exposing young men to strong female authority fgures is as important as it is for young women. Showing both gen - ders that women can be good leaders sets the foundation for nurturing and accepting future female leadership. For those women who think it is too late become experts, I encourage you to read up on Claudia Wilds, who didn't begin birding until she was in her forties. Her passion for study led her to become a foremost expert in shorebird, tern, and gull identifcation. Observing her critical thinking skills and her confdence to express opinions on all matter of topics at ABA board meetings was inspiring to me as a young woman. Though we lived on opposite coasts, she was my role model. The role of women in our society is changing rapidly, and I believe we are on the right track in developing more female leaders, but it will take time. Let's help each other develop confdence and help those who are passionate to achieve excellence. n Texas "Girl Birders" hiking in Arizona's Ramsey Canyon. Photo © Norma Friedrich

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