Why Women's Leadership?

While the conservation community has made significant progress in advancing women’s leadership, there is still a gender gap with men occupying the most powerful positions in environmental and conservation organizations (Green 2.0, 2014).  Women of color face unique challenges and an even larger pay gap. We believe that the conservation movement is made weaker by a lack of women leaders, especially women of color.

Why Women’s Leadership?

Women’s leadership is good for business and organizations. A 2009 McKinsey report found correlations between an organization’s performance and the proportion of women serving on the executive board. It also found that leadership behaviors “more frequently adopted by women are critical” to navigating “a post-crisis world.”
Diverse and inclusive workforces demonstrate positive business outcomes, including more discretionary effort (+12%), greater intent to stay (+19%), more collaboration among teams (+57%), and greater team commitment (+42%).
Diverse leadership is also associated with higher levels of innovation and success. At firms with diverse leaders, employees report that they were 60% more likely to see their ideas developed or prototyped, 75% more likely to see their innovation implemented, and these firms were 70% more likely to have captured new markets in the past year.

What is holding women back?

Impostor syndrome. Women are not only more likely to experience self-doubt, they are also more likely to be limited by it.  In a survey of several thousand potential political candidates, all with credentials to run for office, men were 60% more likely to think they were ‘very qualified’ to run for office. Women are more likely to blame themselves for failure. Women are also more likely to internalize negative feedback and are less likely to ask for a promotion.
Competence and likability trade-off. A Harvard Business case provided that success and likability are positively correlated for men and negatively correlated for women. Women are penalized when they are assertive and results oriented and advocate for themselves, whereas men are not.
Mentorship and sponsorship. Men are more likely to be mentored (someone who advises) and sponsored (someone who uses his/her own influence to advocate) than women.
Emotional labor. Women are more likely to be asked and assume responsibility for others in the office and as caregivers outside the office.
Performance bias. Relative to females, male performance is often overestimated. A study of identical resumes—one with a man’s name and one with a woman’s name—found that 79% of applicants with a man’s name vs. only 49% of those with a woman’s name were deemed ‘worthy of hire.’  Likewise, race impacts perceptions about individual competence. In a similar study, resumes with white-sounding names received 50% more calls for interviews than identical resumes with black-sounding names.
Performance attribution bias. Research shows that when men and women work together on tasks, women are given less credit for a successful outcome.
Acknowledging that women in conservation face unique challenges and that they are a critical component to a successful and strong conservation movement is the first step to change. National Wildlife Federation is committed to leading this change through its Women in Conservation Leadership program.