Women's Environmental Leadership Australia, transforming Australia’s response to the environmental and climate crisis
Women’s leadership is often collaborative, networked and responsive to communities – essential skills to fight climate change.
It was 2021 and the United Nations climate change conference (COP26) was underway in Glasgow. On world leaders day, powerful influencers from all over the globe attended negotiations to decide on actions for a more sustainable future.
“Of the 140 world leaders who attended, only 10 were women,” says Victoria McKenzie-McHarg, strategic director of Women’s Environmental Leadership Australia (WELA). “So if we think that we've got enough women at the table, playing a role in climate matters at a leadership level – we don’t.”
McKenzie-McHarg says female representation is still lagging across the nationwide industries where big environmental decisions are made.
“To create long-term, meaningful change, we have to grow the numbers of women and gender-diverse environmental leaders across Australia. To do that, we don’t just ‘add women’ to management roles. Women aren’t cordial.
“What we need to do is give women and gender-diverse people the space to lead in the ways they want to lead – and not just follow established approaches to leadership that currently exist. Only then will we get different approaches to change and climate solutions at scale.”
Herein lies the mission of WELA: an independent non-profit community of women transforming Australia’s response to the environmental and climate crisis.
Evidence has shown that more women in decision-making leads to better environmental outcomes , because their leadership is often networked and responsive to community needs.
“We need innovation like never before. Building a culture of collaboration with women and gender-diverse people who are naturally inclined to do this work and set the conditions for strong collaboration is an essential part of creating climate solutions.”
Last year, Equity Trustees recognised WELA and the Phyllis Connor Memorial Trust (PCMT) had a similar passion to support female leadership. Equity Trustees brokered an introduction that changed the course of the non-profit’s climate future.
PCMT funding has allowed WELA to bring on new staff to run additional leadership programs on a bigger scale and invest in communications.
“PCMT backed our plan and vision. We really needed that core funding to meet the demand that already exists. It was gold to an organisation like us. Our relationship with Equity Trustees and PCMT has been transformative. It’s set us up for more growth in the future.”
McKenzie-McHarg remains determined to ensure that “every action we take to support women and gender-diverse people will make the environment better than it otherwise would have been.”
“Our story of growth shows there is enormous opportunity for funders to have a transformative impact on what the future of the planet will look like. Backing the projects that you can see are going to create long-term systemic change is incredibly powerful.”