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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55 May 2016 | Birder's Guide to Conservation & Community the women who decry the lack of female leaders would never consider taking a lead- ership position themselves. It's not because they couldn't; they just don't want to. If we want things to change, we need to identify the women birders who actually are interested in becoming leaders. Here are a few ways I think we might improve the situation: • Try to have more than one woman on a committee or board. While there are a lot of women who are quite comfortable in the company of men, others don't like to feel singled out. In a gender-imbalanced group, none of the men will likely feel that they are representing all men; how - ever, the only woman may feel that she is expected to represent not just her own views, but those of all women. That's a lot of pressure! • Don't keep asking the same few women to serve on every committee or project. Seriously, they want some time for bird - ing, too! Do ask those women for recom- mendations of others who might be in- terested. The next great leader might just be waiting to be asked. • If you are a potential woman leader, speak up. Let everyone know you are in - terested in taking a leadership role. Don't take it personally if you have to ask mul- tiple times. Sometimes there are people ahead of you. Keep asking. • If you are a man unsure how to interact with female birders, just treat us like your favorite sister. Let us know that you are happy to have us there (in the feld, on your Big Day team, or at the board table). Most importantly, all birders should be encouraged to let the current leaders know who they want to see in leadership posi- tions. Name names. Until we start shar- ing our recommendations, those making the decisions will continue to turn to their own friends and contacts, maintaining the status quo. I think the biggest positive change since I started birding is that we are actually talk- ing about diversity. Birding is often a solo activity, so awareness of "the community" is not always at the top of mind. As we recognize ourselves as members of a larger group, the diversity issue is defnitely, and appropriately, getting a higher profle. Debi Shearwater Hollister, California There is no question that the birding world has become more inclusive of women over the past 40-plus years that I've been in the feld, especially in North America. We've come a long way on some issues, but still have a long way to go. The question re- mains: What can birders do to help pro- mote women taking leadership positions in the birding community? I propose three paths: mentoring, modeling, and dialogue. I was fortunate to have a kind birding mentor in my life: the late Ed Kutac. The defnition of "mentor" is "an experienced and trusted advisor". Ed taught me birds and so much more. He introduced me to the greater world of birding at the many Texas Ornithological Society meetings we attended. His weekend feld trips to far- fung regions of the state were as legend- ary as his deep knowledge of Texas botany. He taught me that birds and plants were interdependent. Ed had three daughters about my age, and I became his "birding daughter". Whether Ed had been a male or female would not have mattered. The period when Ed mentored me is one of my life's most treasured times. Mentoring is something that both men and women can offer the birding world. Take on a female birder, whether she be 17 or 70. Female leaders or "models" in the bird- ing world are desperately needed. Leaders are often more "public" than mentors. In many rural areas, a birding mentor may not be available. Female leaders, or "models", with high-profle positions in the birding world can help fll this gap by showing fe- male beginners that people like them can succeed in the birding world. The ABA has been in existence for nearly 50 years, and though there is an ongoing effort to include women as members of the Board of Directors, 10 of 13 current board mem- bers are male; only once in its history has the ABA had a female board chair. It has never had a female president. How can we increase women's participation and pave the way for more female leaders? Here's one way: Dialogue about the issues of women in birding might be at the top of the list. The need for this discussion cannot be overstated. A newly created Facebook group, "World Girl Birders", attracted 1,000 members in just the frst 72 hours. This speaks to the pent-up need for women to have a safe space to discuss what's on their minds, whether it be a sexist slight they per- ceived last weekend or a trip they're plan- ning the next. Dialogue is something that every birder, male or female, can participate in, and when done civilly, it adds a positive dimension to birding. Finally, I would say that although the issues surrounding women in birding are the topic here, the same issues surround other underrepresented groups in birding. Lili Taylor Brooklyn, New York Most readers of this magazine probably know that women are underrepresented in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Why is this? One of the culprits is gender bias, or more specifcally, second- generation gender bias. Here is a clear and simple defnition from Wikipedia: Second-generation gender bias refers to prac- tices that may appear neutral or non-sexist, in that they apply to everyone, but which dis- criminate against women because they refect the values of the men who created or devel- oped the setting, usually a workplace. Gender bias is a diffcult thing to prove, but n Mary Gustafson (white shirt) leads a shorebird workshop at Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge. Photo © John Yochum, TPWD

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