We’re celebrating the women of Durrell for International Women’s Day 2023. From our CEO and staff at Jersey Zoo to the field teams at our rewilding sites around the globe, 63% of our workforce is female.
Our staff have achieved an impressive amount in the last year. Harriet Whitford, Deputy Head of the Bird Department at Jersey Zoo, and the Bird team bred seven pink pigeon chicks as part of the species’ conservation programme.
Juliette Velosoa, Rere Turtle Conservation Manager, won a Continuation Funding grant from the Whitley Fund for Nature, which will scale up the work to protect the critically endangered turtle in its native home.
Amy Bompas, Rewild Carbon Manager, has helped businesses commit to balancing their carbon emissions, resulting in over 144,000 trees being planted which will absorb over 28,500 tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere.
We asked some of the inspirational women who work at Durrell for their advice on overcoming obstacles and their path to working for a conservation organisation.
Have you overcome any obstacles in your career?
“Mainly fighting against negativity. When I first told my career teacher that I wanted to be a zookeeper, I was told it would be unlikely. Happily, I started at Jersey Zoo not long after graduating! Now I have moved into the Site Services department, which is a very male-dominated area. I often get odd looks from delivery drivers when I turn up in the forklift to unload supplies from the lorries! Just remember to be bold and take any training opportunities offered; you never know where they will eventually take you.”
Jenna Hunt, Logistics Manager
“At first, moving to Jersey with my family seemed like a big obstacle to my career. For 15 years I had worked in marketing for luxury fashion brands, so initially I thought there was nothing for me in Jersey. However, when I discovered Durrell, it opened a whole new career and so what seemed like an obstacle turned out to be an amazing opportunity. I really had to quieten my inner voice saying I couldn’t do this just because it was different to what I had done previously. I knew that my degree in Wildlife Biology, plus working in senior marketing roles for global brands, bought a unique skill set to the role. However, the fundraising part of job was new but my (female) boss believed in me and gave me the opportunity and self-belief to show that I could do it.”
Alexandra Shears, Director of Communications & Fundraising
"In the culture that I was brought up in, a woman working on an island while having to stay away from family is looked down upon. As such, the value that I place on my work and career is lower compared to the value that others place on the work that I do. While this could have caused discouragement, I have learnt to surround myself with those who understand the nature of my work, value the opportunities that my work offers, and support my career. All the while, I speak with people to help break cultural misconceptions and let them know that this field of work is something achievable for the current and next generations of women."
Tasha Chattiyerkama, Islands Restoration Coordinator, Mauritius Field Programme
What advice would you give to women looking to get into a similar career?
“I think it’s important to remember that there are lots of different ways you can help in conservation and different routes you can take. Before starting here at Durrell, I have worked as both a Registered Veterinary Nurse and as an Associate Practitioner in the Histology laboratory at the General Hospital. Many skills that you can gain are transferable which has been shown in my ability to move from animals to humans (and back again!). I would advise people to take every opportunity and go out and see all different jobs that are available to gain experience in a range of roles.”
Stephanie Hay, Veterinary Administrative Assistant
“You have to want to make things happen and move yourself forward. Persevere and take on challenges to reach your goals. Don't be afraid to make mistakes and learn from them with regular self-evaluation. Continue wanting to learn new things. Value the feedback you get from others.”
Lantotiana Hantanirinasoa, Human Resources Manager, Madagascar Field Programme
Are there any women role models who inspire you and why?
“While I don’t necessarily have role models, I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the importance of one woman to my work and what I am able to do today. If you look for any information regarding vegetation and ecological history within the Mascarenes region, you will find over and over the name Wendy Strahm. So much of what I know about flora species’ history and conservation status over time is because of her. I still do surveys of locations of rare plants that she originally found over twenty years ago. Seeing the amount of work that she did in the Mascarenes region thirty years ago, during which it would have been even more difficult to be a woman (and a woman in science), gives me hope to what I can accomplish.”
Cacey Cottrill, Round Island Flora Restoration Biologist, Mauritius Field Programme
“There are two women who inspire me a lot. Marie Curie, who proved that science is not a discipline reserved for men. In addition, she could balance family life and a scientific career by being a mother and wife and a physicist and a chemist at the same time. The other is Michelle Obama, who, through her committed actions, inspired girls and women. She gave them the strength to believe that they could become whatever they wanted, regardless of their gender, skin colour, or social background.”
Hanitra Nomentsoa Andrianantenaina, Training Coordinator, Madagascar Field Programme
"I am lucky to have many within the sector, including Dr E.J. Milner-Gulland, Dr Abigail Entwistle and Katie Lee-Brooks. All women who manage to have a great impact in conservation and give their time to supporting others, whilst seamlessly managing family and work life (well, on the face of it, anyway!). Also, my sister, Charlotte Bray, a brilliant contemporary composer who is an incredible role model for young women in her sector and uses her music to bring attention to current events such as climate change, war, the plight of refugees, as well as a piece that explores discrimination and the sacrifices women make (all whilst balancing family life!)."
Jess Sweeney, Field Programme Delivery and Impact Manager