How can fostering female leadership positively impact the conservation community? That’s the focus of National Geographic Explorer and biologist Liliana Gutiérrez Mariscal’s work. Liliana specializes in ocean conservation and community building, and her goal is to successfully recover fisheries through empowering women in El Manglito, Baja California Sur.
In honor of Women’s History Month, we talked to Liliana about how she achieves this through her work, her experience as a woman in the field, and who inspires her.
Tell us about your work empowering women in Baja California Sur.
Overfishing is a worldwide problem. It is only through fisheries restoration and conservation of key coastal ecosystem elements, such as mangroves, that the health of the marine environment can be protected along with the coastal communities that rely on them to survive.
It has also been widely proven that features associated with women leadership are central to foster collaboration, teamwork, resilience, and creativity. My work in Baja California Sur and other coastal states in México focuses on empowering women through helping them to grow capacities associated with systems thinking, dialogue, and learning, and to acquire economic autonomy. The central idea is that by doing both, women leadership will positively influence communities and fishing organizations to engage in fishing and habitat restoration and protection.
Why did you decide to work with women to scale up fisheries restoration?
The Gulf of California is one of the places around the world where more resources have been invested in conservation, and yet environmental, social, and economic results are not abundant. Women leadership is key to collaboration, teamwork, and the ability to learn. It fosters creativity and can help communities deal with uncertainty. All of these traits are necessary if, as a collective, we are going to rebuild natural capital like fisheries.
How is being a woman in the field an advantage?
In general, women see the whole system naturally. Therefore, we can truly reflect on how to transform it. We can see the close link between taking care of our children and the future of fisheries, between a healthy humane community and a healthy ecosystem. Women are much more likely to care about hierarchy only if it comes from wisdom or moral authority. This is the key to assertive actions: Don’t ask yourself how you get to be boss, but how we get this thing done. Women care about relationships, and that is how we build collaboration to solve complex problems and ultimately build a new system— a new relationship between humans and nature.
Is there a piece of women’s history that inspires you, or a figure in women’s history you look up to?
I have always been mesmerized by the journey of Susan B. Anthony. I imagine her at night feeling nervous, even scared, but still finding it worthwhile to fight for her vision of equity. I imagine her reading and writing and talking to other women and men about a possible world to be created. I imagine her smiling at little girls, dreaming of a world where women can not only vote, but shine, create, explore, and be whatever they want to be.
Learn more about Liliana, her work in Baja California Sur, Mexico, and what she is doing for fisheries and community restoration.