Women in Conservation: The Future is Female
By Amber Nabors
A recent resounding theme in mainstream media is that “the future is female” and that has certainly been the case for the FWC’s Division of Freshwater Fisheries Management (DFFM) and fishing participation in Florida.
DFFM has always strived for a diverse workplace and has been proud to see an increase in the number of women joining the workforce as biologists and in management positions. In 2008, women represented 28% of DFFM’s workforce. In 2016, women represented 35% of DFFM’s workforce—and these ladies certainly aren’t just here to schedule meetings and push papers around.
Out of the 19 women currently employed in DFFM, six of them work as biologists with a Bachelor’s degree or higher and three of them work in upper-level management with a Bachelor’s degree or higher. Nine of DFFM’s female employees serve as administrative staff and one serves as a program manager with a Bachelor’s degree or higher. These ladies are leading scientific studies, conducting field work, managing large-scale programs and operations, and ensuring that the Division runs smoothly and Florida’s natural resources are managed appropriately.
Recreational fishing, much like scientific jobs and conservation work, has historically been “a boy’s club.” But, that is also changing as females continue to participate in recreational and competitive angling at increasing rates. According to the 2014 Special Report on Fishing by the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation (RBFF) and The Outdoor Foundation, “Almost 42 percent of first-time fishing participants are female” and “Freshwater fishing has the highest rate of female and youth participation compared to other types of fishing.”
Women compete in fishing tournaments as pro anglers and co-anglers, in college tournaments, and high school tournaments. Those numbers are growing as more female anglers start fishing recreationally and competitively at the high school level. In 2016, the FWC partnered with RBFF, Fishing League Worldwide (FLW), and the Student Angler Federation to offer a grant program supporting new and existing high school fishing clubs in Florida. That program more than doubled the number of students participating in high school fishing statewide with a rate of 32 percent female student anglers participating. A similar program will be offered in 2018.
“FLW heartily encourages women to participate in our tournaments,” said Dave Washburn, Vice President of Operations at FLW. “The fish don’t care who catches them, and men and women compete at the same level, on equal footing in FLW fishing tournaments.”
Rosemary White, an avid female angler, conservationist, and mother of two whose image was on the cover of FWC’s 2017 Freshwater Fishing Regulations stated that she strives every day to “break the stigma that only men are anglers and that women have to look a certain way to participate in the realm of fisheries and conservation.”
“I taught my two boys to fish and we do so frequently,” said White. “I am most proud that the 2017 regulations cover image was taken by my son when we were fishing together. To have that memory memorialized forever means a lot to me as an individual, as a woman, and as a mother,” White concluded.
The FWC’s TrophyCatch program was thrilled to award membership into the program’s coveted Hall of Fame club to kayak angler, Jean Wilson, during Season 5. Wilson caught a 15-pound largemouth bass on the Wacissa River, along with many other trophy bass catches! Wilson is one of few female anglers who have qualified for the TrophyCatch Hall of Fame club, which awards anglers for largemouth bass catches weighing 13 pounds or heavier. Visit TrophyCatch.com to see all of Wilson’s (and others’) trophy bass catches!
“As a female kayak angler, I strive to show women that fishing knowledge, skills, and accomplishments can be attained by anyone,” said Wilson. “I love sharing my passion for fishing and encouraging other women to pursue this incredible way of connecting with nature and enjoying a sense of adventure.”
The FWC is proud of its many female staff members and encourages anyone who is interested in conservation or scientific careers to pursue those interests. The future of Florida’s natural resources depends on the continued passion for conservation work, regardless of gender, race, or age. If you’re considering a career with the FWC, please check out MyFWC.com/get-involved/employment/careers/.