Two Women Leading the Fight for Clean Water

As Women’s History Month draws to a close, the leadership and advocacy of two women honored this year with the National Wildlife Federation’s Ohio Women in Conservation Award can serve as an excellent reminder that history is made daily. Women are underrepresented in natural resource decision-making around the world, so it’s important that we celebrate the luminaries paving the way for new generations of female advocates.  

On March 25, the National Wildlife Federation Great Lakes Regional Center honored Joy Mulinex and Alicia Smith virtually in a ceremony.

Mulinex has served as the executive director of the Ohio Lake Erie Commission since 2019, where she advises Governor Mike DeWine on Lake Erie issues. She’s spent 20 years working in public policy in Washington, D.C., and back home in Ohio. Her career has focused on ensuring that everyone in the Great Lakes has clean and healthy water to drink and enjoy. 

Smith was a founder of the Junction Coalition in Toledo in 2012. The Coalition is a partnership of community leaders, businesses, nonprofits, and volunteers dedicated to environmental justice, economic justice, social justice, and peace education. (You can read more about Smith’s work with Junction Coalition here.) She also serves as the community engagement director for Freshwater Future.  

With expansive careers advocating for water in Ohio and Lake Erie, it’s no surprise that Smith and Mulinex had some great advice to offer young women hoping to make a difference in the spheres of conservation, climate advocacy, and environmental justice. 

When asked what advice they might have for young women interested in making a difference through environmental and conservation advocacy, Smith suggested they stay true to their values.

“I would say to our young women that you stand on what you believe in. When you believe that working with family is working for everyone else and working for everyone else is working for family, there is a direct contact,” said Smith. “When you are creating multi-generational connections, it becomes holistic. We stand together to move forward and create the changes that we want to see. When you go into any arena, be true to yourself and don’t make excuses, make change.

Be eager to learn from those around you, but always feel free to question and keep pushing when you are not satisfied,” added Mulinex. “Stay away from comparisons to others in the field and play to your strengths. Everyone has unique perspectives, and we have our own motivations for why we jump into this policy and environmental world. Find out what really motivates you, and you will find success.”

You can become an advocate, too. Fill out this survey with your interests and the ways you’d like to get involved with advocating for wildlife, whether in Ohio like Mulinex and Smith, or throughout the rest of the country.