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It’s a simple formula: More women in science equals more impactful and innovative science.

Studies have found that scientific teams made up of women and men produce better research. Yet, of course, a persistent
gender gap remains. Women make up about
a third of the workforce in science, technology, engineering and math. And while there has been some progress in recent
decades, it’s uneven. If current trends hold,
it could take more than a century for women to be equally represented in fields like physics, math and engineering.

For International Day of Women and Girls in Science, we are highlighting some of the women who power the science behind Conservation International’s work — changing conservation practices and informing critical policy decisions. Here, they
share their passion for protecting nature — and their advice for the next generation of women scientists.

 

Shannon Murphy

Marine biologist, seascapes program manager, United States

© Mark Erdmann

What does it take to be successful in a STEM career?

You need to be passionate about what you do. Always be open minded and listen to others.

What do you love about your job?

I love that I get to work with people around the world — I learn something new every day and I’m never bored.

As a woman in STEM, what advice would you give to your younger self?

Be kinder to yourself and have confidence that you deserve to be in the room.

 

Anna Jean Haw

Africa Rangelands Program manager, South Africa

© Tom Kiptenai-Kemboi

What does it take to be successful in a STEM career?

Keep your eyes open to opportunities and be clear on your values. You may not know your exact career path, but if you have clear values and passion, you will find a fulfilling journey — and it’s all about the journey.

What do you love about your job?

I love grappling with challenges and collaborating to find innovative solutions to complex problems. There is always more to learn and discover, especially in the natural world. Science and learning are a lifelong gift.

As a woman in STEM, what advice would you give to your younger self?

Don’t be afraid to shine…or fail. Find other women in STEM who can provide a supportive peer group to help you celebrate your successes and challenge you to do the hard stuff.

 

Ret Thaung

Wildlife conservationist and biodiversity manager, Cambodia

© Kouy Socheat

What does it take to be successful in a STEM career?

Seek out mentors and collaborators who support your growth — and, especially, never stop learning.

What do you love about your job?

I have the opportunity to engage with local communities and the younger generation, fostering a shared commitment to protecting our natural world. The experiences I’ve had in deep forests, places few people have the chance to visit, are truly special.

As a woman in STEM, what advice would you give to your younger self?

Be confident that you are enough and capable of doing great things. Take up space and don’t afraid to make connections with people who inspire you.

 

Remesa Lang

Forestry engineer, development and communications coordinator, Suriname

© Devika Narain

What does it take to be successful in a STEM career?

Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty and think outside the box. Never underestimate yourself. Embrace the challenges, be willing to take risks and trust in your ability to overcome obstacles.

What do you love about your job?

I love contributing to brainstorming sessions to develop new ideas. I have a genuine passion for learning and embrace the role of a multitasker.

As a woman in STEM, what advice would you give to your younger self?

If you have a dream in mind, you must pursue it and believe that you can achieve it. Don’t be afraid to try new things. Embrace the journey with confidence and determination.

 

Luciano Andriamaro

Senior Director Science and Knowledge, Madagascar

© Luciano Andriamaro

What does it take to be successful in a STEM career?

Love what you do and don’t hesitate to start small. As you progress, step by step, you will begin to see the value of the efforts you’ve made.

What do you love about your job?

In my 22 years at Conservation International, I have gone from coordinator, to technical manager, to senior director of science and knowledge in Madagascar. I work with a multidisciplinary team, and it is always a pleasure to learn from my colleagues.
I am proud of the women on my team and I encourage them to do new things.

As a woman in STEM, what advice would you give to your younger self?

You need patience, perseverance and conviction to know you’re on the right path. Have keep the courage to continue and always be optimistic that you will reach your goal.

 

Elle Wibisono

Fisheries scientist and policy fellow, Indonesia 

© OceanX

What does it take to be successful in a STEM career?

Be curious and always challenge your own assumptions.

What do you love about your job?

I get to learn new things all the time and meet the most brilliant (and fun) people.

As a woman in STEM, what advice would you give to your younger self?

You can still be a scientist even though you feel inadequate as an undergraduate! Sometimes, even our brains are late bloomers.

 

Cecilia Gutierrez

Forestry engineer, social impact manager, Peru

© Humberto Saco

What does it take to be successful in a STEM career?

Adaptability, teamwork and ethics.

What do you love about your job?

Traveling to different countries and having the chance to see more than the typical tourist places — seeing “real” places and people that I otherwise would not know; experiencing their culture, their day-to-day living and the way they
think.

As a woman in STEM, what advice would you give to your younger self?

Don’t be afraid of trying. Just by trying you will feel more empowered and will gain a lot.

 

Virginia Simpson

Community conservation specialist and program manager, Australia

© Virginia Simpson

What does it take to be successful in a STEM career? 

Similar to what it takes to be successful in any career: tenacity, leaps of faith, and the willingness to learn and to back yourself as needed!

What do you love about your job?

The fact that I get to work on something that matters to me — and do it alongside such an amazing global team of people.

As a woman in STEM, what advice would you give to your younger self?

Know the worth of your skill set, and don’t go around comparing it unfavorably to other people’s.

 

María Claudia Díazgranados Cadelo

Marine biologist, senior director for the Blue Carbon program, Colombia

© María
Claudia Díazgranados Cadelo

What does it take to be successful in a STEM career?

You need to learn to understand people’s different ways of working — to have patience and tolerance for the different situations that arise with colleagues and with external partners. We are all different, but those differences can enrich the work
and make it more successful.

What do you love about your job?

I love the team I’m on, especially my supervisor whom I admire a lot. I like to try new things in places that need our work. Even though it is very complex, I know we are going to succeed in what we do. The challenges are interesting.

As a woman in STEM, what advice would you give to your younger self?

Few people put their heart and soul into what they do. But that doesn’t change the love and passion you put into every seed of a project or idea you plant at work. You will surely see many trees grow big and strong over the years.

 

Carter Smith

Wildlife ecologist, Sojourns program director, United States

© Judy Holme Agnew

What does it take to be successful in a STEM career? 

Hard work, a few bruises and dedication. 

What do you love about your job?

So many things; I pinch myself a lot. One thing I love is that my role offers a continual learning curve. If I ever get bored, that’s all on me. There’s lots to learn thanks to vast nature of Conservation International’s work around
the globe. 

As a woman in STEM, what advice would you give to your younger self?

Don’t be dissuaded by closed doors. Believe. Really truly. It is half the battle. And never lose your sense of humor.

 

Ana Guzman

Biologist, executive director of the Costa Rica program, Costa Rica

© Ana Guzman

What does it take to be successful in a STEM career?

Success can take many shapes, but for me it means achieving your goals, being happy with your decisions and having no regrets.

What do you love about your job?

I love being a bridge between science and people — to advance actions that have a positive impact on local communities and witness the joy that comes from helping others.

As a woman in STEM, what advice would you give to your younger self?

Trust yourself, you know what’s best for you. It might not be the path people expected you to take but it will be the one you made for yourself. Own it!

 

Natasha Calderwood

Senior director carbon portfolio, United States

© Natasha Calderwood

What does it take to be successful in a STEM career?

Remain curious and open-minded. Be prepared to challenge others’ views and think about how to apply your own learnings and experience in a different light. STEM careers help drive so much innovation in the world today but sometimes the best solution
to a problem can be found by re-framing a tried and tested approach.

What do you love about your job?

Getting to work on a daily basis with people who are passionate, smart, authentic and driven to find solutions to our world’s toughest challenges.

As a woman in STEM, what advice would you give to your younger self?

Find what you are passionate about! If you love what you do the rest will come. Along the way don’t be afraid to experience different things, try out new skills and stretch outside of your comfort zone.

 

Susan Vulpas

Coastal ecologist, Indonesia program development advisor, Indonesia

© Susan Vulpas

What does it take to be successful in a STEM career?

I think it means making strategic decisions about your job and being honest about the career you want to have and taking steps to get there. (I feel like I’m still working towards my ideal STEM career).

What do you love about your job?

That’s an easy one. Field work is the best; it nurtures passion while keeping us motivated and connected to our conservation goals. I love being in the water in Indonesia, chatting with the field teams and partners, and experiencing the amazing places
we are working to protect.

As a woman in STEM, what advice would you give to your younger self?

Believe that you have a place in STEM and keep working towards the career you want to have. Also keep learning from people whose work you find interesting.

 

Vanessa Bauza is the editorial director at Conservation International. Want to read more stories like this? Sign up for email updates here. Donate to Conservation International here.

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