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NWF’s Leading Ladies Lend Advice on How to Achieve Success in the Conservation World
As Women’s History Month draws to a close, the National Wildlife Federation wishes to honor a few of our own and share these talented ladies’ advice for how to achieve success in the conservation field, find a fulfilling career, and be the best leader one can be. From coast to coast these women are up to some incredible work and, recently, many gathered for National Wildlife Federation’s 2nd annual Women in Conservation Leadership Summit. Here, women were able to share their stories and inspire others in the process. This is the advice they have to offer to women who want to succeed in their field and make a difference for wildlife in the process.
Beth Pratt-Bergstrom has worked in environmental leadership roles for over 25 years, and in two of the country’s largest national parks: Yosemite and Yellowstone. As Regional Executive Director of NWF’s California Regional Center, “I have the best job in the world” Pratt-Bergstrom says.
“While advocating for the state’s remarkable animals, I get to travel around California and spend time with condors, mountain lions, porpoises, pika, and foxes, and work with some amazing people who help wildlife thrive.”
Beth serves on the board of the non-profits Outdoor Afro and Save the Frogs!, and she has trained with Vice President Al Gore as a member of his Climate Reality Project Leadership Corps. Her conservation work has been featured by the New Yorker, the Wall Street Journal, CNN, BBC World Service, CBS This Morning, the Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, and NPR. She is the author of the novels The Idea of Forever and When Mountain Lions are Neighbors: People and Wildlife Working It Out In California, and the official Junior Ranger Handbook for Yosemite. She has given a TEDx talk about coexisting with wildlife called, “How a Lonely Cougar in Los Angeles Inspired the World,” and is featured in the new documentary, “The Cat that Changed America.”
What is Beth’s advice for all the passionate women out there who want to make a difference in the world?
“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” That quote from Mary Oliver’s poem The Summer Day is hanging in my office, and those are words I live by.
“My creed as a woman in this world trying to make a difference? Be relentless. Be fierce, be bold, and dream big. Find your vision for change, and run, don’t walk toward it. Even when faced with adversary or naysayers, or people pressuring you to give up or change yourself to conform to some prescribed norm, don’t listen. Stay true to yourself, be genuine, be sincere and be kind. And measure success in how many people you have inspired.” – Beth Pratt-Bergstrom
Simone Lightfoot’s role includes influencing and monitoring public policy that impacts urban centers, engaging African American constituency groups, elected officials, community, faith, business and non-profit leaders at the federal, state and local levels. Through multiple channels, she work with our national team, National Wildlife Federation affiliates and partners to inform and expand their outreach and outcomes. Here is what Simone has learned through her work:
“The one piece of advice I would give a woman in conservation (or any field) on how to achieve success is to find another wiser woman to defer to…..
To take it further for those who can handle it, make sure that woman is outside of one’s own race and don’t let either ladies age be a factor. This conscious, professional, interracial relationship can offer such unique and instantaneous growth with deep, rich, mind expanding experiences. If allowed, it can inform and enhance ones work more immediately. I was born to lead, raised to serve and militarily trained to fight, so success and career fulfillment for me is about self-sacrifice in order to enhance the greater good and move the misery index. It means bold, creative, unwavering and consistent leadership on those issues and efforts most others deem difficult. It means deliberately running towards those challenges that others absolve themselves of. It means getting through the door, sticking your foot in it and insisting others get waived in with you. That’s leadership, success and how to have a fulfilling career.” – Simone Lightfoot
Hilary Falk leads the organization’s seven regional offices with a focus on regional growth, national and regional program integration, and strategic partnerships. She is an expert in large-scale ecosystem restoration and coalition building. She created and directed the Choose Clean Water Coalition, a 230-member advocacy organization focused on protecting the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
Falk was also a Senior Policy Analyst at the Northeast-Midwest Institute, focusing on large-scale ecosystem restoration of the Upper Mississippi River, Chesapeake Bay, and Delaware River. She started her career as a program manager at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s Port Isobel Education Center on Tangier Island, Virginia.
Falk received a Tribute to Women and Industry award from the YWCA in 2014. Her passion for her work stems from a childhood spent exploring the edges of the Chesapeake Bay. She has learned much and overcome many challenges during her years of experience in the conservation field. Here is her guidance for others looking to achieve success:
“My advice for women leaders is to understand and lean into your strengths rather than focus on your weaknesses. I also find that when women lead with their values, they are happier and more successful.” – Hilary Falk
Lastly, we wish to honor Kate Zimmerman, who passed away earlier this year. Zimmerman was a tireless advocate for conservation. Though she is missed dearly, her work is continued by the countless individuals she inspired.
Kate made monumental contributions on behalf of public lands. As a direct result of her work for the Federation over the past 20 years, there are literally (no exaggeration) millions of acres of land that belong to all of us that have been protected and better-managed because of Kate’s encyclopedic knowledge of public lands and her unfailing pursuit to protect our nation’s special places. Throughout her career, she played a critical role in helping to conserve and increase wildlife populations across the west, including mule deer, elk, pronghorn, bighorn sheep, black footed ferrets, bison, eagles, and, most recently, her unparalleled leadership on sage grouse.
The Kate Zimmerman Award was recently presented posthumously to Kate and will be awarded in subsequent years to women demonstrating superior leadership and vision around conserving and managing our public lands. We can all learn a lot from Kate’s leadership. Most importantly, never stop fighting for the wildlife and wild places that makes this country what it is, and work hard to inspire others along the way.