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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56 Birder's Guide to Conservation & Community | May 2016 Female Leadership in Birding a rigorous study from 2012 (tinyurl.com/ PNAS-gender-bias) did just that. Science faculties were presented with identical ap- plication materials from male and female graduates. Not only were male applicants favored, but women were likely to receive $4,000 less in funding than their male counterparts. And troublingly, a more re- cent study (tinyurl.com/Handley-et-al) found that when presented with evidence of gender bias in the STEM felds, men in - side the felds found the evidence uncon- vincing and unimportant. So what can be done about this discour- aging situation? Even though the latter study indicates a lack of openness to the situation, the frst step is acknowledging the problem exists, and that all of us—both men and women—are affected by gender bias. If you're curious how you stack up, you can take an implicit gender bias test at implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/. Receiving my test results was humbling, but I was comforted by the fact that one of the cre - ators of the test also scored positive on ra- cial and gender bias. I think the following example might be an area where gender bias is covertly operating in my life. I am one of three women who currently sit on the ABA's Board of Directors. Have I done anything to increase our numbers? Sadly, I haven't. Here I am, a feminist and believer in equal opportunity, and yet I've taken no action to get more women on the board— and this is precisely the kind of place where we can effect substantial change. I'm not sure why I haven't taken direct action. It could be due to a feeling of powerlessness, complacency, or even laziness. But I don't want to get too caught up in dwelling on why. (See Rue Mapp's ar- ticle in the 2015 issue of Birder's Guide to Conservation & Community.) The key is to accept the bias and take action. With these essays, the ABA has opened the door so that we can examine this problem and share our thoughts and solutions with one another. Writing this was the push I needed to refect and get honest with myself about the problem and my part in it. Charlotte Wasylik Vermilion, Alberta cnafarm@gmail.com What makes one a member of the "upper ranks" of birding? Some metrics used have included the "top 10" of eBird lists, records committee members, the top 100 ABA Area listers, Big Day record holders, and members of the ABA Checklist Committee. Some of these categories seem to me rather arbitrary and not entirely appealing. I don't know that it helps birding, or women, to limit who we consider infuential or a leader in this way. When I consider what constitutes lead- ership, I think of the experienced birders who share their passion and their knowl- edge so generously with a new generation. I think of Dr. Bridget Stutchbury, head of the Stutchbury Lab at York University; of Sharon Stiteler, whose Birdchick blog is opinionated and irreverent; and of biolo- gist and author Myrna Pearman, who has contributed greatly to the conservation of Mountain Bluebirds in Alberta. There are many more women providing such leader- ship, and I hope—even though they may not ft into one of the categories listed above—that we will recognize them and their accomplishments as role models to inspire us. I do. I have had opportunities to learn from many encouraging and knowledgeable mentors, most of them men, but I've never been made to feel uncomfortable or like less of a birder because I'm a young woman. Growing up in a rural area with few local birders of any age, I was fortunate that my mother decided to help me explore various birding resources online, join the provin - cial listserv, and help me to start a blog so I could post my sightings and photographs. I was brought up to be independent, and with two younger brothers, I'm also pretty competitive and assertive. But the mentor- ing I've received from adults, including older men, has brought particular challeng- es for my (non-birding) parents. When do they trust that I can go safely with another birder, often in a vehicle? And when should they accompany me? For them, it means a long day away from their busy farm to en- gage in an interest they don't share. Luckily, all of the birders I've met, men and women alike, have been remarkably trustworthy, generous, and enthusiastic about sharing their passion. So when we think about how to get more women interested in birding leadership po- sitions, it seems to me we should help them to become strong, confdent, and passion- ate. I think those of us who have beneft- ted from mentors and more knowledgeable birders have a responsibility to offer a simi - lar role to the next generation, to encourage them not only in their enthusiasm for bird- ing, but also more generally with opportu- nities for experience and skills that foster, say, self-reliance and a willingness to volun- teer. The birding community in general also needs to open up its defnition of leadership and success—looking beyond ticked boxes on a checklist, the fnders of rare birds, and records committees—toward such areas as research, education, communication, and conservation efforts. n Tashonna Grant, a Junior Outdoor Afro Leader, is excited about the fve Snowy Owls she saw on Assateague Island. Photo © J. Drew Lanham n Anya Auerbach, Alex Hale, and Maia Paddock (l to r) having a great time at VENT's Camp Chiricahua. Photo © Jennie Duberstein

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