women in sustainability leadership

The Past and Future of Sustainability is Female

Honoring those who came before and inspiring those who will come after for Women’s History Month

March 8th, 2018

Women’s History Month (and International Women’s Day in particular) seems like a perfect time to celebrate women in EHS and sustainability leadership, acknowledging the unique skills they bring to the table and how they are changing the future of leadership in these growing fields. To celebrate, we’re talking to and about women in power and looking to women taking charge in leadership positions and growing into spaces they haven’t been before. 

The State of Women in EHS & Sustainability Leadership

There is very little research on the current status of women in EHS and sustainability leadership generally. However, the Harvard Business School suggests that “companies with more women leaders are not only more committed, on average, to corporate social responsibility—they may also be better at it, in the sense that such companies are likely to develop higher-quality CSR initiatives.” Combined with research from the same study linking higher donations to corporate and social sustainability initiatives with having more women in leadership, and that diverse perspectives aid in broadening sustainability programs (supported by research from the Stanford Social Innovation Review), there is definitely a business case for women in sustainability leadership.

And while historically, promoting women’s empowerment and diversity hasn’t always been a priority in the corporate world, there are signs that things are changing. The Stanford Social Innovation Review explains that while many companies integrate women in the grassroots, on-the-ground efforts for sustainability, the next step needs to be including women in the corporate planning and strategy of these green initiatives. Events like NAEM’s Women’s Leadership Conference are fighting the good fight to make sure women are supported in carving their career paths and learning to lead effectively, and there is hope yet that we can add more women to the EHS and sustainability leadership fold. 

Inspiration Everywhere

While awesome women like Rachel Carson and Erin Brockovich have definitely inspired us, we can’t forget about the everyday inspirations who work around us, like our friend Erin Augustine, Senior Sustainability Manager at Kellogg Company, who leads sustainability for global operations, including setting goals and strategies and reporting against these metrics through CDP, Dow Jones Sustainability Index, Kellogg’s Corporate Responsibility Report, and customer and consumer requests. Erin says, “some of my most insightful and inspiring career advice has come from my grandmother, Maureen. She continuously encourages me to advocate for myself in the workplace, always tying my sustainability work back to the value it drives for the business today, and to actively hunt for the next challenge that will keep me inspired. Not only does she offer her advice freely, she embodies it in her own life, too. After a successful career at Ford, Maureen is still learning new skills well into her retirement, attending musical festivals to learn new instruments, like the dulcimer and banjo, and leading jam sessions at her winter community hall in Texas.” Love it!

We asked some of our Antea Group colleagues to tell us who inspired them in science and sustainability, and the answers were pretty varied, ranging from an AP chemistry teacher who cultivated her students’ “green gene” at a young age, showing kids the possibilities of a career in sustainability; to Dian Fossey, primatologist extraordinaire; to Julia Butterfly Hill, an environmental right’s activist who lived in a California redwood tree to show the world the problems with demolishing old wood forests.

Nick Martin, Senior Consultant and Sustainability Practice Leader, speaks to women’s leadership in the organization, saying “From the pride I feel with women representing approximately half of our sustainability team at Antea Group, to the many phenomenal women leaders we engage with through our client work, I’m happy to say women’s empowerment is very prevalent in the corporate sustainability field.” From sustainability dream team members to awesome health and safety practitioners like Donna Lynch and Angie Stagg to Vice Presidents Rosanna Ouellette-Pesicka and Peylina Chu--we support women in seeking their full leadership potential.

The Future is Bright for Women in EHS&S

We can’t wait to see what is in store for the next generation of women EHS and sustainability leaders, and know that a whole generation of young women are looking to us to inspire and help them grow into roles where they can protect people and the environment. 

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