BIAZA International Women's Day conference

International Women's Day

In recognition of International Women's Day, many organisations held events across the globe to celebrate the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. In AnimalConcepts, we explore the topics of gender equality and equity, discrimination and female empowerment across all platforms, promoting inclusion and respect for all beings. 

BIAZA held a conference under the theme 'Women in Conservation', with speakers from institutions such as IUCN, Save the Rhino, Chester Zoo, Twycross Zoo, Paradise Wildlife Park and many more conservationists from the field. Max Norman, Animal Welfare and Conservation Coordinator at AnimalConcepts, attended the in-person event at Paradise Wildlife Park in the UK. Despite the cold weather and the surprise of snow here in South-East England, the event saw lovely a turnout of women – and several men! - from all over the country and beyond. 

We heard of the multifaceted challenges women face while working in conservation; the everyday sexism faced, such as microaggressions, belittlement, and harassment, as well as the systemic challenges such as gender wage gaps, lack of access to sanitary products and contraceptives while working in the field, and formal and informal exclusion even in leadership positionsDespite the field welcoming many more women than men in recent years, this is not reflected in many leadership positions – which are still often held by older, white men. Women of marginalized backgrounds, especially those from BAME backgrounds, often face real and perceived barriers to entering the animal care and conservation profession ranging from the prevalence of unpaid internships as a requirement for gaining a foothold in the career to a lack of mentors and role models within the industry to act as a support network.

Of course, we also have much to celebrate in how far we have come; the joys of hearing that a younger colleague is inspired by their work, that their work proved there is no “glass ceiling” holding women back from achieving everything they want to achieve; the programs run by organisations to highlight how we can eliminate microaggressions within the veterinary profession and others; and the support received from workplaces to ensure that working in conservation can be safe, accessible, and – above all – enjoyable for women. We also had the pleasure of touring the new developments at Paradise Wildlife Park, itself owned and directed by Lynn Whitnall - herself an inspiration and passionate woman working for animal welfare both within the zoo and in the wild. This included an amazing new tiger habitat and brand-new structure for housing sun bears, binturongs, and Asian short-clawed otters together with respect for the needs of the individual species.

There is much being done to work towards a more diverse, inclusive, equitable, and equal animal care and conservation community in the face of continued challenges and in celebration of what we are achieving. The BIAZA DEAI working group acts in the UK, for example, as a pillar promoting these values through active allyship; encouraging those with the privilege to listen, learn, and advocate for marginalized groups, and giving a platform for the candid discussion of the challenges and opportunities faced by diverse groups of people.

With the lessons learned from this day, we too our looking to how we can be better allies for all marginalised groups: including reviewing our diversity and inclusion policies, creating new resources, and acting as a platform for all people to come together as a community to learn, discuss, and share. We are also looking to launch a new webinar series exploring diversity in the animal care and welfare community, inviting speakers of a diverse range of backgrounds to speak on their career trajectories and the challenges and opportunities faced in their line of work.


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