Nature is a human need – central to the quality of our most fundamental physiological requirements (water, air, food), as well as our physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. 1 , 2 Thus access to diverse nature should be recognised as a human right. Allied to this right is a right to fight for nature and express an opinion about it. And if the naturally diverse opinions of a society are to be considered – representation matters.

You don’t have to be a white, able-bodied, middle-aged, middle-class, cis-male to write about nature, photograph it, present it on TV, or discuss it intelligently in a public forum. But you wouldn’t necessarily know that from media output, or from the speaker line-ups at many high-profile wildlife events. The fact is that while women are catching up after centuries of overt discrimination, pushing forward wildlife research and practical conservation, participating in citizen science and campaigning for environmental causes with passion and courage, they are still widely, woefully, embarrassingly and inexcusably underrepresented in the public face of the wildlife sector. 3

There’s something else a majority of women from all social backgrounds do for most of their lives. Almost three-quarters now do it alongside their paid jobs. 4 Yet the wildlife community has overlooked a group responsible for most day-to-day consumer decisions and for shaping the world view of future generations. Is it possible, somehow, that we have forgotten mothers? Most don’t have much time for recreational wildlife-watching, but that doesn’t mean they don’t care, or that they won’t fight for the future their children are growing into.

Making women and men of all social backgrounds a proportionate part of the wildlife movement isn’t political correctness, it’s a matter of necessity. We need diversity. We need the engagement of stay-at-home and working parents of all genders, just as much as we need professors and professional commentators. We need wildlife-loving teachers, imams and local councillors, business leaders and farmers, allotment-tending retirees and streetwise teens; we need environmentally aware shop and office workers, call centre operatives, doctors, accountants, engineers and lawyers. We need their perspective, their energy, their compassion, their voices and their votes.

So let’s look closely and critically at conservation’s public face. We need to recognise and expand its constituency, bring people from all walks of life to nature, find new and more effective ways of sharing its message, and ensure that when someone chooses to engage with the wildlife and conservation community, they feel respected, represented and welcome, whoever they are.

DR AMY-JANE BEER, BIOLOGIST AND NATURE WRITER

References:
1. Wood, L.,
Hooper, P., Foster, S., Bull, F.(2017). Public green spaces and positive mental health – investigating the relationship between access, quantity and types of parks and mental wellbeing.Health & Place 48: 63-71
2. Hughes, J., Richardson, M., Lumber, R. (2018). Evaluating connection to nature and the relationship with conservation behaviour in children.
Journal for Nature Conservation45: 11-19
3. WWF (2011). The Case for Gender Integration,
WWF [Online]. Available at: http://assets.wwf.org.uk/downloads/case_for_gender_integration_at_wwf_oct2011.pdf(Accessed 11/09/2018)