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 54 of 59

53 May 2016 | Birder's Guide to Conservation & Community Melissa Hafting Richmond, British Columbia One way to make birding more attractive to women is to hold social nights for women in our communities and to advertise them on birding listservs, websites, and other fora. We need to be proactive and get more girls out birding with us. We can plan con- ferences and meetings on diversity in the birding community. Men can also invite women to bird with them, instead of just birding with their male buddies. Expanding social circles with new blood is not an easy thing to do for some people, but the potential rewards, both for the individual and the avocation as a whole, are great. Men can nominate women to high positions in birding com- mittees, especially qualifed women of First Nations and non-Caucasian descent. It is also vitally important to foster young children, including young female birders. If girls are included from an early age in birding activities, they will feel more wel- come. In "The Freedom to Bird", published on The National Audubon Society's website (, J. Drew Lanham said, "Color doesn't limit birds; it simply enhances their lives and our enjoyment in seeing them. I think it should be the same with us." He is so right. Let's get out there and enjoy the birds as nature intended. More diversity in birding is in ev- eryone's best interest! Alvaro Jaramillo Half Moon Bay, California I believe that birding is so versatile and rich a pastime that it adapts and refects the interests of those who take part in it, par- ticularly so with leaders in the community. What we see as birding today is what those leaders have—consciously or not—con- structed over their tenure. While many are thrilled by Big Days and vagrants, these are but a tiny fraction of what is possible to fnd exciting and fulflling in birding. Birding can only blow open as something that millions of people will enjoy (and I think it will) when multiple versions of birding are avail - able, thereby making it easier for each indi- vidual to fnd a ft. I would venture to say that in North America, most birders are in fact women: perhaps 55%–60%. If I am even close on these numbers, then women are the most underrepresented group in positions of leadership. You might say, "Well, hold on. There are fewer African Americans, Asians, and Latinos in leadership positions." And you'd be right. But these groups are also a tiny proportion of the total number of birders. They may in fact be better repre- sented (proportionally) than women. So what to do? If I had the answer, I would be talking about it more often than I do gull identifcation! But perhaps one way forward is for magazines, Audubon groups, records committees, and tour companies to make a concerted effort to make women feel accepted. The hobby, commerce, and general health of birding will improve as a result. If you are a man in a position of power in the birding world, consider giv - ing up some of that power to a woman— even to someone who in your mind may not quite be ready to take the reins. A new person allowed into the system can gain experience quickly. If new people are kept out, for whatever seemingly rational reason, a network is created whereby only the "in- group" is ever in. Turnover is crucially im - portant in cultivating new leaders. I say, "Go for it!" Enjoy the new perspec- tives that come with new and diverse faces. Can you imagine if, at the next meeting of your local bird club, there were hundreds of people in attendance, instead of just a dozen? Imagine if those people were a real refection of the community: women and men, kids and grandparents, working class and upper class, gay and straight. A more diverse birding community will help us to conserve the wonderful world we live in. It all begins by opening up. We all deserve to have birds in our lives! Kimberley Kaufman Oak Harbor, Ohio A lot of discussion on this subject seems to focus on the lack of female birders leading feld trips. If we view the issue through that narrow lens, women could certainly be bet - ter represented. But if we widen the lens just a bit, female leaders come more sharply into focus. Most of the major birding festi- vals in the country are organized by wom- en. Women are directing Audubon centers, managing wildlife refuges and bird obser- vatories, and holding leadership positions with the American Ornithologists' Union. But I won't deny that we still have work to do. At a recent birding festival in Florida, a Q&A session featured an all-male panel of experts. Several equally qualifed women were in the room, but none were on the panel. Was it a conscious decision to ig- nore them? No. Did I bring it to the festi- val's attention anyway? You bet I did! I've also heard from many women who've been overlooked, underestimated, and disre- spected in the feld, the perception being that they must not be "serious" birders be- cause of their gender. But I believe these situations are less and less common, partly because the generation of men raised under the mentality of "guys are better at outdoor things than girls" is fading out. I encourage women to take a proactive approach. If you feel underestimated and disrespected in the feld, don't be afraid or embarrassed to speak up. Set the person straight, and then prove yourself in the feld. My personal experience has shown that far too many women say nothing at the time but take to social media later to rally the troops around them. Why not own the moment and take a stand? If approached with grace and dignity, these experiences can be turned into something positive for everyone. Color me optimistic, but I see the bird- ing community blazing the trail. We're breaking down barriers for women, chang- ing gender stereotypes that have been re- n Amy Cooper (l) and Myia Tariq (r) watch a Bar-tailed Godwit during ABA's Camp Avocet. Photo © Carrie Samis

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