I started my zoo career in the late 1980’s as a general operative and the first zoo I worked in had a complement of about 30 zookeepers, and only two of those were female; but instead of that deterring me it made me even more determined to become a zookeeper and help to prove that women can be great at this job. I am delighted that our industry has changed over the decades to a point where women are represented in much greater numbers and that we are seeing more and more women appointed to senior leadership roles within our industry.
I have worked in a number of BIAZA zoos over the years, gradually working my way up and have also studied part-time to get academic qualifications and whilst this has given me a broad range of husbandry experience with a large number of different species, and field experience which I gained from the various opportunities I have had to work with partner projects in -situ, the one crucial thing that has helped me on this journey is to see other successful women in positions of leadership in the zoo and conservation community. I have worked with amazing women in many zoos and in many countries, all of whom are working towards the same goal – saving species.
I have had the absolute privilege of working for some amazing female leaders within our industry including Dr Miranda Stevenson, Dr Sharon Redrobe and Barbara Smith. I have learned different things from each of them at different stages of my career but the one thing that I learned from all of them was to keep pursuing my goals because that is what I saw them doing. I saw them all lead with confidence, be open to new challenges and commit themselves passionately to conservation and welfare.
Having such inspirational women supporting and guiding me over the years has been instrumental in my career path and it makes me think now about my own role, my own influence. Even if I don’t know it, I might be a role model for young women within my own team and it is so important that they understand that as women we are an integral force within this industry and our contribution to conservation practice is vital. “Being a role model is the most powerful form of educating” (John Wooden) so we should all be mindful of our ability to influence our younger team members, even without trying!
Would I have achieved so much had I not had strong female role models? Who knows, but I know for sure that my career has been all the richer for having them.
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