Celebrating Women in Conservation
Today, women around the watershed are changing the trajectory of Chesapeake Bay conservation. As the fate of our rivers, streams, and our Bay hangs in the balance, women are rising to the challenge through compassion, courage, and collaboration.
Women have been a driving force behind many conservation victories around the watershed. These dedicated champions fight every day for clean water, stand up to powerful interests, and lead organizations that care for our Bay.
At Chesapeake Legal Alliance, the women on our staff work in and out of the courts to take on some of the biggest threats to the health of our waterways and our communities. CLA is a staff of mothers, friends, and partners. We love our work and we know that our life experiences make us better attorneys and colleagues. CLA Senior Attorney Molly Brown recognized that especially in the last year, “it is easy to feel overwhelmed by responsibilities.” Brown feels honored to have support and mentorship from the female environmental leaders and advocates throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Most importantly, Brown is proud to honestly show her daughters how women can be embraced and be successful while balancing the roles of mother, friend, and advocate.
Female empowerment at CLA didn’t start this year. Eliza Steinmeier served as one of CLA’s first female members of the Board of Directors. During her Board tenure, Steinmeier relied on her experience and values as a woman to inform her contributions to Board matters, a perspective that while unique was (thankfully) welcomed by the Board. Now, in her role as Co-Executive Director, Steinmeier continues to make it a priority to champion women in the CLA workplace. Steinmeier believes “that one of womens’ strongest leadership qualities is our inclination to recognize and honor each other’s humanity. For centuries, simply showing your human side has been viewed as weakness. In my opinion, our humanity and vulnerability are our superpowers and we are obligated to bring them to work. Moreover, when we opt to lead with compassion and authenticity, everyone benefits.”
Clockwise from top left: Eliza Steinmeier, Hannah Brubach, Arielle King,
Erin Mezgar; Center: Molly Brown and Angela Haren
Steinmeier is a role model, not only for staff at CLA, but also for our law clerks. Our current law clerk, Arielle King, feels fortunate to spend her last semester at law school with CLA. Through her time at CLA, King has learned “just how crucial women’s voices are in this work.” King is “grateful to be able to watch first hand as the brilliant, dedicated, passionate women of this organization balance their personal lives with work even while working from home; lead with confidence, patience, and transparency; and demonstrate all of the characteristics necessary to build CLA into an even greater force for environmental protection and climate resilience in the Chesapeake Bay Region.”
CLA is lucky to have King on our team. She may not know it, but she is an inspiration to us as well. Arielle impressed the CLA team by sharing words from All We Can Save: Truth, Courage, and Solutions for the Climate Crisis, by Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and Katharine K. Wilkinson. In their book, Dr. Johnson and Ms. Wilkinson explain that there is a renaissance blooming in the climate movement; one with leadership that is more characteristically feminist, “rooted in compassion, connection, creativity, and collaboration.” King feels that CLA is part of this renaissance and her compliment fuels our work.
At CLA, we know that environmental initiatives that include all voices in decision making, lead to better outcomes for our waterways. As a majority female-staffed organization, we know we need to harness the inspiration we can provide to the next generation of empowered women. Senior Attorney Angela Haren was one of the first women in her family to attend college and is fortunate to have had “support, guidance, and inspiration from female colleagues, bosses, and professors who set examples of how to be successful in what has been historically a male-dominated profession.” Haren understands that “refusing to accept the status quo and believing a different way is possible is at the heart of environmental advocacy.” She is “immensely grateful to work at CLA with colleagues who embrace and actively cultivate a culture of authenticity and support.”
CLA is committed to using our female authenticity and our compassion when prioritizing cases and lifting up the voices of those communities that are disproportionately impacted by pollution and other environmental issues. CLA Director of Philanthropy, Erin Mezgar, believes that “although we face many barriers related to discrimination, extraordinary women continue to transform how we care for our waterways, empower communities, and inspire conservation movements.” Mezgar is honored “to work with an organization that is not only led by women, but also provides free legal services to women in the community to protect clean water.”
Although women are still fighting for equality throughout the world, Attorney Hannah Brubach believes “The Chesapeake Bay watershed community has prioritized women’s voices and cultivated an environment for women to succeed.” Brubach feels lucky to have had “women mentors throughout the watershed and at CLA who demonstrated to her the value of female compassion and support.”
Together, the women at Chesapeake Legal Alliance are proud of our organization and the support we have each had to get to where we are today. We feel lucky to be a part of the legal and policy advocacy that will protect the health of our waterways, communities and the Chesapeake Bay.
Thank you to all the amazing women who have supported, mentored and encouraged our staff along the way. As we end Women’s History Month, we raise a glass to you.
Here’s to strong women! May we know them. May we be them. May we raise them.