Opportunity and Diversity

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President & Executive Director Philip B. Duffy

Under-representation of women in the highest ranks in science means that we’re all missing the benefits of the contributions women are not given the opportunity to make. WHRC didn’t create this problem, and we can’t totally solve it, either. It is present nearly everywhere, and its causes have roots in our larger society.

Nonetheless, we at WHRC are committed to doing what we can here to address this issue within our own institution. Recruiting is an important strategy, and probably the first that comes to mind. We hire relatively few scientists, however, and nearly all of those are at the early-career level. That means that for us, mentorship and cultivation are essential elements of our approach. These ideas and more, are an important part of our new strategic plan, and I am excited about working with staff and outside experts to implement them effectively. As a first step, we are obtaining outside advice on all aspects of Center management, including recruiting, mentoring, and diversity.

The issue of opportunities for women has a personal element for me. My mother was a scientist (a climate scientist, in fact), who clearly had the attributes needed to rise to a high level in academia. That did not happen, though, because in that era women faced severe trade-offs between family and career. I am grateful, of course, to have been the beneficiary of the choices she made—and proud of what she accomplished academically nonetheless—but I hope that my daughter (also a climate scientist—and talented, in her father’s opinion) has much better options. I can’t control that, of course, but I can influence the environment here at WHRC, and I hope that we can create one I would be happy to have my own daughter work in. If we do that, we will have succeeded.

The recent issue of our Canopy magazine illustrates some of the unique challenges women encounter in science, as well as the progress that’s been made in addressing them. It also highlights the work of one of our outstanding young women scientists, Marcia Macedo.

That issue also includes WHRC’s financial data for the fiscal year completed on June 30. I am grateful for our recent success, but keenly aware that the immediate future is extraordinarily uncertain, if not perilous. While we are working to reduce our dependence on federal research grants, they still comprise 40 percent of our annual budget. WHRC’s new strategic plan outlines a comprehensive program of income diversification that I believe can and will be successful, but we will have work to do and I expect challenges ahead.

At the same time, of course, the need for our work and the opportunities available to us have never been greater. The federal government’s willful denial of reality, and its unwillingness even to try to protect its citizens from the risks of climate change mean that non-governmental organizations like WHRC must do more. Our strategic plan continues our long-time focus on international efforts, and adds an emphasis on work here in Massachusetts. This is the right agenda for today and for the foreseeable future, and with your help we can make it happen.

Thanks as always for your interest and support.