Monday, June 19, 2017

Program ideas and strategies from other women in natural resources

Christel Kern, Laura Kenefic, and Susan Stout, who co-authored Bridging the Gender Gap: The demographics of scientists in the USDA Forest Service and academia were in Syracuse last week to take part in Silviculture 2017.   We took advantage of this convergence to discuss their collaborative work, and the programs at the individual colleges with whom they are affiliated, and to share with them some of the programs at ESF. Preliminary findings were shared during a prior visit: 

Workplace Culture Learning Community (Forest Service):
--Monthly conference calls amongst Forest Service personnel.  Participants take turns picking topic, choosing literature or TED (and similar) type talks to discuss.  End each session with strategies.
--Sample topic:  “horizontal hostility” or the Queen Bee phenomenon.
…Strategy for appropriation:  Joke about it in a really light hearted tone “thanks for taking credit for my idea!  Are you going to claim (something ridiculous) as well?)

Supporting Women in Forestry Today (SWIFT) at UMaine:  “Small-scale discussions with large-scale implications”
--informal, to meet, support, mentor and share strategies.  Break-out groups, return to larger group to share strategies.
--participants come from a variety of departments and levels (mix of undergrads, grads and faculty/staff at program)
--Each meeting begins with ground rules (assume positive intent, don’t be afraid of silence, speak from personal experience, be aware of and try to avoid stereotyping….)
--Topics discussed:  imposter syndrome, confidence gap, lean-in, strategies for enter the labor force, campus climate survey, meet and greet, advocates and allies, self-advocacy, identifying and challenging discrimination, role-playing, field tours
--Assessed impacts:  90% of respondents became more aware of biases since attending SWIFT meetings, 80% gained new skills or strategies (call self out on imposter syndrome), 100% developed connections with women in other departments, citing “safe space” to communicate with others and comfort realizing they were not alone
--Future:  adaptive management framework, more topics, involving others (recognizing mixed feelings in doing so)
…Strategy:  Know terms for phenomena, this is empowering!  (experience is less likely to be perceived as an outlier); faculty need to be more aware of what students know.  Jargon is a huge barrier, as is expectation that rural experience is universal
…prompted a story from a different person, who recalled being told about not wanting to mow lawn because of a rabbit’s nests, but not relating, not because of anything about bunnies or ground nesters  but because at that time, they knew no one with their own lawn

Pathways Program and Presidential Management Fellows
….gateways to many federal jobs, and the latter program also provides some leadership training

Book Club comprised of the few women in one of the remote Forest Service office’s (Wisconsin)  AND other women that work nearby—
… Strategy: “Thank and Yank”—when someone else takes (or is given) credit, sincere “thank you for reiterating my idea” and bring it back to that focal point

ESF Women’s Caucus
-- topically, have much in common with above
-- Perspectives on Career and Gender is for credit, so more formal and more limited reach. 
-- Used to do more informal as well, would like to do more of these, especially in the fall (opposite above class & WiSE Professions Speaker Series) and with student and faculty/staff affinity groups.  Build in meetings in conjunction with other events?  Look for opportunities to collaborate with CDO (once announced and here), bring back SU Advance to share what they’ve learned and developed since they spoke about early program developments (
…. strategy:  Amplification.  This is a parallel to “Thank and yank” when another person, rather than the Original Speaker, says “that’s very similar to what Original Speaker said—Original Speaker, tell us more!”  Another usage maybe when trusted colleagues preview and suspect it will be naysayed in meeting (and appropriated later):  “That sounds like it has great potential—can you tell us more about …..”

Mentoring discussion ensued:
--Does it matter if mentors female?  Can have wonderful (or crappy) mentors across gender spectrum.  Someone with some similarity to you validates your experiences.  But may also find this with someone with other types of differences.  The caveat:  formal mentoring programs often don’t work. 

Suggested readings:
Kern, Christel C.; Kenefic, Laura S.; Stout, Susan L. 2015. Bridging the Gender Gap: The demographics of scientists in the USDA Forest Service and academia. BioScience. 65: 1165-1172.
Kramer, Andrea S; Harris, Alton B.  2016.  Breaking Through Bias: Communication Techniques for Women to Succeed at Work.  Taylor and Francis
Sharik, Terry L. 2015.  Diversifying Student Demographics in Forestry and Related Natural Resources Disciplines.  Journal of Forestry 113(6): 579-580
SAF Diversity and Inclusion Working Group.  2017.  Strategies for increasing diversity and inclusion at SAF meetings.  Forestry Source 22(6):  17, 21

Instructional Support 
FNRM Equipment Room and
WiSE Professions & Take our Kids to Work Day 
SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry
415 Bray Hall (Mail:  320 Bray Hall)
1 Forestry Dr, Syracuse, NY 13210
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