Sexism in nature conservation – Part 2

Since I wrote my first blog post on 2nd December 2015 http://birdgirluk.blogspot.co.uk/2015/12/letter-to-bbc-wildlife-magazine-on.html, I have had lots of support. I really appreciate all of this; on Facebook Groups, my Facebook Page, Twitter and comments on my Blog.

Some of the advice has been given with really good intentions but without a real understanding of the issues for girls like me. Some people said that I should just appreciate how lucky I am to go on great birding trips (which I do), I should not worry about getting recognition (even though I only want recognition for what I and other girls achieve), I should stop blogging or having a presence on social media as that will stop the bullying (the bullying started way before I started my blog), that if I stopped trying to engage with people I would no longer feel let down and everything will be OK. So basically all these problems have happened because I tried to have a public profile and brought it upon myself. I think this is genuinely what a lot of birders think, believing that they have a modern outlook.

Some people did say “bullying is bad” but didn’t actually say “I’m sorry that happened to you” before being critical. Someone went further to tweet that the young birders group which they were a member was not involved. Despite messaging to say this was not true she didn’t correct herself. If someone doesn’t want to support me, unless are being rude to me, I don’t care. But do I have to ignore things that are untrue?

Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig birding in Somerset
Photograph taken by and copyright Helena Craig

Sometimes I do think about stopping it all, but I realise that all the backlash will carry on even if I stopped birding, ringing, talks, conservation projects, blogging and my social media accounts. Then all that would happen is that all these people (as women can be sexist too) would be saying “I told you she wasn’t really interested in birding, it was her parents forcing birding on her and I knew she would stop in her teens”.

The 50 were chosen by the magazine’s advisory panel of 30 middle-aged men (or older) and 2 women (again older) and ‘other’ experts. I would like to know who the other experts were and whether there were more men than women. The result was that only 12 out of 50 chosen were women, with 2 out of the top 10 being women. Jane Goodall was number one, but no one can argue with that? How can that be accurate, with so many women involved in the conservation sector? Was the outcome because it was men who voted or was it because women are not recognised for what they do? Maybe because they don’t shout about what they are doing as much as men? I think next time, they could try to focus on coming up with female names, who are as good and powerful as the men.

This month Birdwatching Magazine featured an article “Bird Watching, The Next Generation – Meet the young birders making a difference” which was in conjunction with the BTO. On the front page was a teenage girl looking through a telescope, which looked promising. First a 4 page article by 24 year old wildlife photographer Luke Massey on a trip back to his roots in France.

Then a 6 page article from the BTO’s Ieuan Evans on how young birders can get involved with BTO and other projects (great, I have been ringing and doing nest box surveys for 4 over years). On page 1 was a photo of a girl ringing and on page 6 one of a young boy birding. It’s good to have the photo of a girl but it would have much better if a woman from the BTO had written the piece. The BTO has lots of capable women.

Then a ½ page article by Findley Wilde age 13 year old on his concerns on conservation.

Then finally, a 4 page article by Nicola Boulton about working as a wildlife guide and photographer in Western Scotland.

So of the articles, 1 out of 4 are written by a woman. It was good that there were two photos of girls birding and ringing but this is bit shallow if they are not given the chance to write.

Then there are a number of young people, under the heading “One to Watch”. I know most of them and they are great birders in influential in our field. I am not saying that they didn’t deserve to be listed but I don’t think they are the only possible people that could have been included in this category. There was only 1 girl out of 7 people. This is my main issue. Were these people chosen by the BTO or the magazine? There are lots of amazing young female birders/ringers out there and I think this was a missed opportunity to showcase more of them. I know from Twitter that the magazine certainly was told about lots of them.

 

Sorrell Lyall,  Nathan Burch,  Alex White, Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig, Billy Stockwell
at The Wildlife Trusts Every Child Wild Podcast on how to get young people into nature

Photograph taken by and copyright Helena Craig

Additional comments
There are situations where even if there isn’t
actual sexism, there is an inequality between men and women in birding and nature
conservation.
Are the number of women who come into our field
impacted by the fact that it appears to be dominated by men?
Would there be more women taking up the hobby, if
women were more visible?

Birdwatch Magazine Birders’ Choice Awards 2015
Again I personally have a good relationship with the magazine and so my comments are not meant to be taken personally by them or anyone who won.


Birdwatch Magazine announced their awards in October 2015 and anyone could vote online.
Four categories were for people:

Conservation hero of the year – Choice of 5/5 men
Local hero – to be nominated by voters
Blog of the year – Choice of 4 men/2 women
Best Book – Choice of 4 men/2 women

Results were announced on 27/12/15, with all the winners being male, who I am not at all disputing their winning.

Conservation Hero – Chris Packham, winning outright
Local hero – Nominated by readers, the
magazine highlighted 11 men/2 women, with the winner being a man
Blog of the year – Mark Avery, winning outright with a woman second (me!)
Book – Martin Garner, which was particularly lovely as he died not long afterwards

Why are those at the top dominated by men? Is it because there aren’t enough women, so they don’t get to the top or is it because men are promoted more than women? Particularly our female nature presenters? Where are they? Where are my role models? Where are my mentors?

Our nature media has to be more inclusive and balanced, publishing writing from men and women and be ethnically diverse where possible. Following my approach to the 4 big NGO’s on the issue of ethnic diversity, the RSPB and The Wildlife Trusts have been using images of ethnic minority children and young people. This is something the nature magazines need to focus on as well.

I hope the next time articles like this are written, women are fairly recognised and represented.

Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig birding in Somerset
Photograph taken by and copyright Helena Craig

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18 thoughts on “Sexism in nature conservation – Part 2

    1. Yes, they were amazing women that stopped the use of bird feathers in hats as well as setting up our biggest bird conservation NGO. It is good at least that the current President it a woman (Miranda Krestovnikoff from The One Show)

    2. Don't forger Lina Hähnle, founder of the German equivalent of the RSPB, and its head for over 40 years. Known as the 'German Bird Mother'.

  1. Awesome stuff Mya-Rose. There is still so much inequality – in conservation NGOs right through to the academic sector. Thanks for highlighting the issue!

  2. In Life their are always nay sayers. Follow your heart in life & all will be fine & remember this do not pay attention to the nay sayers & have fun.

  3. Mya you are a role model for the younger generation. It's lovely to see the passion and love what you do. It shows in your writing as well as the photos. Unfortunately there will always be some small group of people who are narrow minded and jealous. It makes it easier for people to make mean comments feeling their identity is hidden. It says alot about the person. Keep fighting and stand strong.

    1. Thank you so much. Sometimes it hard to understand what is motivating people and maybe they don't even know. Even if it's not jealousy, I think many are motivated by anger when they are commenting, because they feel targeted.

    1. Hi Greg, lovely to hear from you. I don't think it matters whether I was in the magazine or not, as there is still only one girl and six boys. The girl in the magazine, Josie Hewitt, is amazing. She is 17 years old and does loads of local patch birding, twitching, huge amounts of ringing (she has her C licence and does loads of ringing alone and at observatories), she is involved in the two main groups for young birders/conservationists and represented one at the Houses of Parliament as well as being on BBC Springwatch. You can see that she is much more than just a young birder, watching birds locally. She is actually in Australia at the moment birding. When the magazine asked for names of young birders on twitter, they were sent about 50 tweets with many names and probably half were girls. In terms of me, I have no personal upset for not being included. I have had a big article in the magazine before and so they know me well. They invited me to send in details for their piece but we were away in Antarctica and so I did not meet their copy deadline.

  4. I've just read your letter in the March edition of the BBC wildlife magazine. I'm so sorry to hear about all your negative experiences, especially over social media. I really am in awe of all the fantastic work you're doing. Keep it up and hopefully we'll see you on the next Power List!

  5. Mya you are wonderful young lady and an inspiration to youngsters out there to get into nature and birding,keep fighting your cause and ignore the trolls. i am one of the older male generation and feel ashamed when i read that youngsters like yourself are being put down ,remembering what problem Lucy McRobert had on the Scilly isles a disgusting episode by some older male birders on reading the daily blog ,she did win them round. Keep doing what you do and i am sure you will achieve great things i will follow you with interest good luck with everything you do. Chris

  6. I'm really sorry that you had such bad experiences but my experiences are somewhat different. So just a little background i'm a marine biologist or at least I'm trying, I've an MSc and over ten years experience in the field. In my work experience it's quite the opposite, I have not been interviewed by a man in years and out of my university cohort and fellow researchers it's the girls who are getting the paid jobs. Now I'm not saying that men should all I'm saying is that things should be equal and in my direct experience they are not. However I think this is a function a of the sexism of the past and I hope when the old men in charge finally retire we might have a fair system? I do wish you all the best in your endeavours and really hope you face minimal walls to your success.

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