Women are largely excluded from decisions about conservation and natural resources, which could have detrimental effects on conservation efforts globally, according to the research.
A study by the University of Queensland and the Nature Conservancy reviewed a wide range of conservation science published, investigating the cause and effect of gender imbalance in this area.
Robin James, a PhD candidate at the University of Queensland and Director of Nature Conservation at Melanesia, said it was no secret that females were underrepresented in conservation science.
“In fact, according to a recent analysis of 1,051 senior publishers in environmental, evolution and conservation research, only 11 percent were women,” said Ms. James.
“We analyzed more than 230 peer-reviewed articles in an effort to address this very issue, confirming an uncomfortable truth: Women’s voices are critically missing in preserving the environment.
“We found that gender discrimination is systemic and consistent, from small and remote communities in places like Solomon Islands to large organizations for conservation and natural resource management, where women are still underrepresented in leadership and decision-making positions.
This appears to directly affect preservation results.
“Ten of the studies reviewed investigated the relationship between women’s participation and memorization success – all found a clear measure and showed positive effects.”
Feeling biologist Dr Nathalie Patt said the research revealed that current gender roles and dynamics have limited women over the course of their lives – with more than one handicap to overcome.
“First, to address this problem, we need to challenge the assumption that the best leadership positions are men,” said Dr. Pat.
“There is an enduring perception that men should be decision makers and leaders in most contexts, whether within conservation organizations or within the societies in which conservation work is being carried out.
Without women in scholarly research and leadership or decision-making positions, gender discrimination and inconsistencies are rarely recognized as a problem to be resolved.
“We must also do more research to understand women’s aspirations and effectiveness in conservation and natural resource management.
“It is important to recognize and deal with the heavy workloads that women bear outside the workplace – such as the tasks of caring for the family and providing for the family – as this has been evident in every culture we have studied.
“Finally, we need to fill the gap in understanding the gendered use of resources, and the different access to resources that men and women often have.”
Dr Pat said the initial efforts were at work to help turn the tide, but that much more needs to be done.
“In Papua New Guinea, The Nature Conservancy has partnered with CARE to conduct a gender audit for its conservation program, and is working with all staff to conduct gender-based training,” she said.
“They have also developed a new program called Mangoro Market Meri, led by co-author Ruth Konya, which enables women to drive conservation and economic decisions about mangrove resources in their communities.
“At the University of Queensland, we are signatories to the SWAN Athena Charter – 10 key principles to help advance gender equality, diversity and inclusion.
“It’s a start, but there’s still a long way to go – this is a global problem – so let’s build a more equal planet, while we work to protect it.”
The research has been published in The Oryx – International Journal of Conservation (DOI: 10.1017 / S0030605320001349).