We are so excited to announce the launch of our first Women in Sustainability Network Hub in Wales!
Led by the fantastic Tanya Nash, we’re setting up a WINS Cardiff and South East Wales Hub, with our first event happening in late spring this year.
We caught up with Tanya to ask her some questions about her background in sustainability and what she’s looking forward to as she begins her new journey as a WINS Hub Lead!
As a woman in sustainability, can you tell us a little about your background?
As a woman who works in, and for, sustainability, I need to acknowledge the multi-faceted and complexity of the role that I, and other women in the sector embrace. I am now an independent sustainability consultant and coach, supporting others to embed sustainable development as the central organising principle in their organisations, and in their own personal lives. To do this effectively, I draw on my years working in the public sector as a sustainability manager, policy advocate and equality and diversity lead. However, first and foremost I am a mother, a daughter, a sister and a friend. It is these relationships that shape my beliefs and values, and give me the energy I need each day to do what I do to support a more sustainable future.
What unique qualities do you bring (as a woman) that make a difference in what you do?
I approach everything I do from a point of kindness and curiosity, with a good dash of social intelligence, and a deep sense of connection to others, both human and non-human. I ask lots of questions and do my best to listen deeply to what is being said whilst paying attention to what is being unsaid. As a result, I can build and maintain strong reciprocal relationships with others based on trust and I notice things that may not be apparent to others.
These relational strengths of empathy, collaboration, and intuition that women I work with have in abundance, are critical skills and aptitudes that we need more of if we are to move towards a future that is fairer, safer and greener.
What drew you to the Women in Sustainability Network?
I was so thrilled when I first came across the Women in Sustainability Network and I walked out of my first meeting with Rhian, jittery with the potential of WINS for me, for others and what the Network could do for our planet. There was a real sense of finding my tribe, a group of women who are walking the path I am walking, and who are motivated by the same sense of purpose that kicks me out of bed each day. I still catch my breath when I think about the range and depth of experience and knowledge that the women in the network have. Their energy inspires and invigorates me!
You’re setting up the very first Hub for the WINS Network in Wales. What are you looking forward to, in setting up a WINS Network Hub for Cardiff and South East Wales?
I was surprised to find out that there was not a WINS Network Hub already in Wales, considering Wales’s ambitions and leadership in sustainability, and the significant number of women that are engaged in the sector here. So I am especially looking forward to providing a space for women in the sustainability sector in Wales to connect, support and learn from each other, which feels long overdue.
I can’t wait to see what can come from the empathy, compassion, collaborative approach and diversity of thought and experience that women bring, helping and encouraging each other with the different challenges we face. I know I have hugely benefited from connecting with women who are working in sustainability who work in other sectors such as finance, business development, IT and branding. In turn, I have been able to use my experience in the public sector to help others. I’m really looking forward to giving other women here in Wales access to those opportunities.
In your opinion, what are some of the main challenges facing women working within sustainability in Wales?
There is no simple answer to this question. In Wales and in the public sector, where my background is, women and women leaders feature very strongly and have significant influence. But, from stories I hear from colleagues in other, more male-dominated sectors, they are often faced with challenges to their leadership roles based, not on their capabilities, but solely on the fact they are female.
Here in Wales, women working in sustainability face also face the same systemic pressures that women face in sectors, which results in lower equivalent pay and fewer opportunities for career progression. Women in our wider network tell us that they have to deal with gender bias in the workplace, they juggle caring and domestic roles with work.
I’m also conscious that in the sustainability sector in Wales, where women are well represented, we still lack women who are Black, Asian and other ethnic minorities, women who are disabled and women from the LGBTQ+ communities. These women face additional challenges working in sustainability which I am conscious we shouldn’t be blind to.
What excites you about the future?
It can be difficult to get excited about the future when there is so much going on that we should be anxious about. That said, we already have the technical solutions invented to address many of these issues and there is growing recognition of the importance of working with values, beliefs, relationships, and social connections to solving the long-term problems we are confronting. We now have more opportunities than ever to connect and work with all types of people, a growing community that shares ideas, develop new innovations and amplify solutions that we already have. There is such massive potential here that we can’t lose sight of.
What are the opportunities for women wishing to work in some way to tackle the climate and ecological crises in Wales?
Women are probably doing more than they credit themselves for. So I worry that with so much on their plate, they may feel overwhelmed, insufficient, and scared when they start to think about what to do to tackle existential crises such as climate change and the ecological emergency.
So first I would suggest that women sit and reflect on who they are and what is happening through them. There are a couple of great exercises in Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone’s book ‘Active Hope’ – ‘Tell me, who are you?’ and ‘Tell me, what happens through you?’ that can help women get a wider perspective of their sense of self, and what they are already enabling in tackling climate change and the ecological crises.
They can then look at what other things they could do, in their personal life, and at work. A good place to start is by using a simple carbon or ecological footprint tool, which assesses what activities you are doing, or not doing, that impact the climate or nature and can give advice about what more is available for you to do.
One area that is often overlooked is finance, and by investigating what types of investments banks are making and choosing to use banks that do not invest in carbon-intensive and ecologically destructive industries, women can take a simple action to help influence the wider system.
If women wanted to go deeper, they can consider how they might engage politically and in their communities. This could be as simple as writing to local politicians or campaigning with groups such as Extinction Rebellion or working with local groups to help build awareness of the issues and actions that others can take.
As the urgency to take action on climate change and the destruction of ecological systems is more and more apparent, there are now more opportunities than ever to work in jobs tackling these issues such as climate change. Working with a mentor or a coach could really help if this was a change in career direction that women wanted to make, and I’m sure that there are plenty of people in the network who would be happy to assist!
What is the question you wish people would ask you, and what is your answer?
What is this conservation grazing cow club you are part of?
I could go on and on, but in simple terms, grazing is a really important activity in some habitats, such as meadows, heathlands and commons. It is essential to maintain and increase biodiversity and helps keep carbon locked in the soil. Unfortunately, we are seeing fewer and fewer animals grazing these habitats and they are being lost.
I along with a ragtag band of people from all walks of life, formed a cow club and bought some hardy cows that we let loose on the commons in the summer months to do their important ecological work. They are amazing. It helps that they are also supremely cute, and divinely calming. I believe spending an hour chilling with them in the sunshine does more for your well-being than a week in the Priory.
For more information on what’s coming up at the new WINS Cardiff and South East Wales Hub, check out the Hub page here. You can also sign up to receive our weekly(-ish) newsletter, WINS Network News, to keep up to date with our wider Network activities, as well as the WINS Cardiff Hub events.