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  • Feeling Like the only POC In the Green Room? Yea, Same. latino-poc-diversity Full view

    Feeling Like the only POC In the Green Room? Yea, Same.

    Diversity: the go-to word for many industries nowadays.

    We find this word making its way into company strategic plans and put into practice on ads we see walking down the street. The formal definition of diversity, according to the Miriam-Webster dictionary is, “the condition of having or being composed of differing elements: variety; especially: the inclusion of different types of people (such as people of different races or cultures) in a group or organization.” (Miriam-Webster knows what’s up).

    In the most overarching of terms, diversity means any difference, whether that be of gender, race or ethnicity, age, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, religious belief, and really any other group humans can associate with.

    It’s an incredibly important word, one that should be in strategic plans and expressed in ads and the media. The word and the practice should be embraced in all aspects of our society, in all nations, and especially in this country – particularly in the interesting times we are living in and under an administration that literally BANNED the word (*heavy sigh*). 

    But I digress. The word should be recognized as an important aspect of the lives we live in the United States. The country is now more ethnically and racially diverse than ever before and this trend will continue into the next few decades; by 2055, people of color (POCs) can no longer be considered minority groups. But if we are being honest, these trends are not reflected in the makeup of the workforce in most industries.

    In the environmental sector, which includes sustainability, conservation, outdoor recreation/management, and more, diversity is severely lacking.

    A comprehensive study done in 2014 on the state of diversity at nearly 300 environmental organizations found that POCs never make up more than 16% of staff. Even more alarming, this demographic comprises less than 12% of leadership roles within studied organizations. Sheesh. While this is only a snapshot of the environmental sector, it kinda sucks. I can’t say that my experience has been all that different. 

    As a first-generation Latina working in the conservation sector, I am more often than not the only Latinx (gender-neutral term for a person of Latin American descent) in the room and almost always the only Latina. Like. All. The. Time. It’s something that I’ve been faced with since my days in undergrad taking environmental courses. I’ve actively noticed this over the years but have learned to come to terms with. Not to say that I am complacent and content with this, but rather I realize my role as a voice for the growing demographic I represent. Without my voice in the room, the first-generation Latinx perspective would never be heard.

    We need the environmental sector to do better with including diverse voices and perspectives. This is what fuels me professionally and personally every day.

    As POC numbers continue to rise, it’s our obligation to become key players and leaders in the environmental movement.

    For the past three years, I’ve been on a mission to engage POCs and bridge the gaps between knowledge and actions towards living more sustainably. In the next couple of months, I will be exploring the topic of diversity in the environmental, sustainable, and outdoor spaces, through a series of blog posts for Green Philly. 

    have thoughts? We need to hear from you

    We also want to hear from you. In order to begin the process of working on diversity and sustainability, we want to find out what the current state is. Take this 10-minute survey and enter to win a $50 Visa Gift Card!

    Please send any comments or suggestions through contact(at)greenphillyblog.com or on social media. 

    Sofia Sainz

    About Sofia Sainz

    Sofia Sainz works as a Senior Associate for the Wildlife Conservation Society and is based in New York City. When she’s not in the office supporting fundraising initiatives that are saving species in the wild, you can find her leading hikes as a volunteer for Latino Outdoors, finishing up her last semester of grad school, enjoying (bottomless) brunches, spending time with familia, and trying new vegetarian recipes.

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