Words of wisdom from some of Forum's leading women

At Forum for the Future, we are fortunate to be led by many inspirational women who work tirelessly to shape the future of our society. Every day they work towards creating and enabling sustainable change in our systems worldwide.

We want  to share some of their valuable words of wisdom on how they have got to where they are today, and the most important lessons they have learnt during their careers.

 

Sally Uren, Chief Executive

Biggest challenge as a woman in sustainability?

Interestingly the sustainability field has a good gender balance, it’s the system around it that doesn’t.  And for sustainability to become the norm, we need to shift the entire system, which is still patriarchal in its wiring.  So our challenges are the same for women the world over.

Best piece of advice to young women working for systems change?

Believe you can, and you will. And remember, big change starts with empathy.  And we’re good at that. Plus, everyone has a reasonable side, you just sometimes have to do dig harder with some people more than others.

Woman you admire most in sustainability?

All of them. They are trying to create a better world for everyone. That’s an amazing thing.

 

Anna Warrington, Director, Forum India

Biggest challenge as woman in sustainability?

Adapting my normally collaborative leadership style to the Indian patriarchal business and government context.

Best piece of advice to young women working for systems change?

Trust your instincts and stay true to who you are. Authenticity inspires. 

Woman you admire most in sustainability?

Just so many! Sylvia Earle, Jane Goodall, Wangari Maathai, Vandana Shiva were inspirational to me. Malala is awesome and I really admire Rachel Kyte's work with SE4All.

 

Stephanie Draper, Chief Change Officer

Biggest challenge as woman in sustainability?

It’s the usual stuff – having to work that bit harder to be taken seriously, keeping the conversation at eye level (!)

Best piece of advice to young women working for systems change?

Be yourself and find the thing that you feel really joyful about.

Woman you admire most in sustainability?

Margaret Wheatley, Bethan Harris, Penny Walker, Caroline Lucas.

 

Ariel Muller, Director, Asia-Pacific

Biggest challenge as woman in sustainability?

Like women in any industry, in most cases, we are still working on being treated equally while also doing our job. 

Best piece of advice to young women working for systems change?

Evaluate solutions relative to the scale of the challenges at hand, not the status quo. Know how to tell the stories we need in simple ways. Empathy will unstick most stuck things. Try it. When you start moving up, take others with you. Have fun!

 Woman you admire most in sustainability?

I probably don't know her. She's about 24, a scientist, not from a privileged background, is never on social media, as she is usually in her lab late at night. She is about to change the world with her invention. 10 years later she runs for political office.

 

Samantha Veide, Associate Director, US

Biggest challenge as a woman in sustainability?

I think the challenges I face are similar to the challenges other women face in their work, but I do think one unique challenge is that sustainability professionals already face push back that sustainability challenges aren’t business-relevant. When a woman then speaks about the business relevance of gender inequity in agricultural supply chains or living wage issues, I think she may be “double dismissed.”

Best piece of advice to young women working for systems change?

Embrace constant learning. Be open. Be curious. Make mistakes.  Seek to understand.

Woman you admire most in sustainability?

My dear friend and colleague, Kim Elena Ionescu, Chief Sustainability Officer for the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA).  She is doing amazing work to help drive the coffee industry to a more sustainable future and she does it with grace, humility, thoughtfulness and a refreshing dose of humor!

 

Jane Lawton, Chief Development & Communications Officer 

Biggest challenge as a woman in sustainability?

Having worked in the non-profit sector for a long time, my biggest challenge over the years has been helping people to understand this is a career, not necessarily a calling, and one that needs to be compensated in the same way that other roles in other industries are. This is not unique to women, but there are a lot of women working in non-profit!

Best piece of advice to young women working for systems change?

Don’t be afraid to reach out to others for support. We operate in a fiercely competitive world and this can sometimes result in ambitious women feeling they need to push on alone. Asking for support from others – both women and men – and supporting them in their journeys too creates a more nurturing environment that helps everyone develop and advances the prospects for women overall.

Woman you admire most in sustainability?

Jane Goodall – for her commitment, determination and unwaveringly holistic approach  – for pushing the idea that we will never achieve balance and true sustainability until we embrace our place as part of the natural world, not separate from it.

 

Anna Birney, Director of System Change Learning and Community 

Biggest challenge as woman in sustainability?

Many of our systemic challenges derive from the power imbalances in patriarchy– so as woman change makers we have to deal with the day to day reality whilst seeking to challenge it. 

Best piece of advice to young women working for systems change?

Be true to yourselves and create a great network of women around you – I am lucky enough to have the best.

Woman you admire most in sustainability?

I am so lucky to work with and be supported by an amazing group of women all of whom I admire and could not be the person I am today without them.