‘Give a Girl the Right Shoes and She Can Conquer the World’It was a grade 7 classroom trip to Noisy River that got me hooked on the environment. When an orientation game went awry and I got displaced from my group, I quickly turned it into a survival challenge thinking to myself…..”If I simply follow the river, I will eventually find my way back to my classmates”. Despite being reprimanded for my waywardness, my teacher commended me for using my intuitive orientation skills using the landscape and suggested I might want to consider a career in the environment sector.
Following this first revelation of my love for the environment, following high school I completed a degree in Geography at Brock University hoping that it would land me in some sort of position where I could work with nature. Planner, cartographer, field technician… My options were endless. There was only one challenge. At the time, I was entering a field that was still predominantly filled by men.
So you can imagine my surprise when I was chosen to work as an “Environmentalist” (yes that was my title) with the Federation of Ontario Naturalists to work on a number of different conservation projects. I loved my first job. I got to work with everyone from politicians to biologists to consultants. It was very fulfilling and I knew I had found a career that I was very passionate about and would stay in for some time.
I was a little bit of an oxymoron. I loved the conservation field and getting my hands dirty but I also loved pretty clothes and makeup. I questioned if I would be taken seriously if I entered the room wearing pantyhose, heels and pastel blush. Despite my internal questioning, it didn’t take long before I realized that I did have a place in this sector, heels or flats!
My career over the last almost 30 years has been very diversified….from restoration, to project management, to fundraising to government relations. As each year passed and as I took on new positions I also started to see a diversification in the sector. The meetings I attend now have more women at the tables. The conferences I attend have more women keynotes, and the organizations I work with today have a higher percentage of women than men working for them.
I have many people to thank for my involvement and evolution in this line of work….both men and women….but I can confidently say that working as a woman in this sector has been exceptionally rewarding and I wouldn’t trade it for a thing.
Kim Gavine is the General Manager of Conservation Ontario and has been working as a Conservationist since 1989.