How does it look to work and lead as women in sustainability?
What does it look like for a woman to be a thought leader in her field?
Why is it important for women to arm themselves with advanced degrees?
We tackle these questions and many more with Diana Hembree, a student at Green Mountain College pursuing her Master of Science in Sustainable Food Systems.
If you're a woman who wants to arm yourself as a thought leader in the field of sustainability, keep reading for some rich and thoughtful advice from one woman who's done just that.
Tell me a little bit about yourself. What first drew you to the field of sustainability?
I am a journalist who has worked as a senior editor at Time Inc., a writer and news editor at the Center for Investigative Reporting, and as a senior director and editor in chief at different health and consumer finance websites. Right now, I’m a consulting editor at a French science zine and a consumer protection writer at Forbes.com.
I’ve always been passionate about the environment — my friends and I spend many happy hours playing in the beautiful woods and ponds of Atlanta — and I was drawn still more to sustainability issues when I edited a magazine about alternative energy at the Energy Biosciences Institute at UC Berkeley.
Tell me about your experience in GMC’s MSFS program. What specific skills have you learned in the program?
I can’t say enough about what a fantastic experience Green Mountain College’s MSFS program has been.
Not only has it given me the skills to conduct interdisciplinary investigations into the intricate world of bioregional food systems, it has given me the research tools to do so. Among other things, I’ve learned how to design and implement high-quality projects, measure their community and food system impact, and analyze and document project outcomes for the stakeholders.
How do you feel as though it’s preparing you as a thought leader in the field of sustainability?
The program gave me invaluable background and insight into the history of American agriculture, the position of fruits, vegetables, and livestock within the larger food system, contemporary food and agriculture movements, and the theory and practice of sustainable agriculture.
The strong support of my professors, cohort, and other students also gave me the confidence to become a thought leader in the field.
Further, as a woman in this field, can you tell me why you think pursuing a graduate degree was strategic for reaching your professional potential?
More women are entering scientific fields than ever before, but women are still at a disadvantage. The New Scientist reports that since 2009, the proportion of women as lead authors in scientific journals has declined.
Another study has found that scientists regard job applicants to be less competent if they have “female” names. At one startup where I worked, a male engineering colleague told me women employees were simply lazier, took fewer risks, and were less creative than men. Since women still often confront conscious or unconscious bias in the workplace, a graduate degree seemed like a particularly good tool to help me reach my professional potential.
Tell me about the research you did for this Forbes article. What drew you to this topic, and what was your main objective for writing on it?
What drew me to the topic — ranchers and conservationists banding together to save endangered species — was the GMC course “Livestock: Farm to Plate Sustainability” taught by professor Cheryl Cesario. I know that ranchers have a bad rap — often a very unfair one — in the environmental press, and I wanted to highlight the powerful conservation many ranchers are are doing.
A lot of readers told me they had no idea that ranchers were working to protect endangered species. It’s very important to get out news like that.
If you could give an aspiring female leader in sustainability a piece of advice, what would that be?
If time and finances aren’t an obstacle, get a doctorate in sustainability studies — and be sure to take a course in statistics.
Lastly, what’s your favorite thing about Green Mountain College?
It’s hard to choose because I have so many. But perhaps my favorite thing has been my professors’ incredible warmth, support, knowledge, and dedication to the program and their students. I was quite nervous about entering the master's program as an older student, but I was immediately put at ease by Dr. Robin Currey’s exuberant welcome, sense of humor, and passion for teaching and sustainability.
From MSFS director and professor Dr. Robin Currey and my Capstone advisor Philip Ackerman-Leist to professors Marty Strange, Eleanor Tison, Cheryl Cesario, Chad Colman, and others, the accomplished Green Mountain faculty encouraged me to push myself and grow while making the entire process so rich, compelling, and profoundly gratifying.
Here at GMC, we want to help you achieve your dreams.
As aspiring women in sustainability, pursuing a sustainability-focused education at Green Mountain College is just one way to advance your expertise and thought leadership. We hope you'll request more information and let GMC prepare you to do just that!