Researcher Dorceta Taylor says the Student Conservation Association is a good example of an environmental organization that encourages diversity from the top leadership to kids like these. Photo: Courtesy Student Conservation Association.
August 29, 2014
How diverse is the green movement? Not very. That’s according to a study published this summer by the University of Michigan’s Natural Resources and Environmental School’s Dorceta Taylor.
The study entitled “The State of Diversity in Environmental Organizations” and prepared for Green 2.0, an advocacy group pushing for diversity among environmental NGOs, government, and foundations, found that while 40 percent of Americans are minorities, they make up less than 16 percent of employees at environmental institutions. Paid staffers at the nation’s largest environmental green groups are 88 percent white, while the boards that govern these groups, including the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council, are 95 percent white. The report describes an “unconscious bias” existing within the liberal, progressive culture of these organizations.
“Unconscious bias comes in for instances, in terms of how one identifies new workers or staff, how one might go about recruiting them,” Taylor says. “It could also be long-term practices, for instance, of hiring only people from particular organizations, or from within certain networks.”
Taylor, who grew up in Jamaica, is the first African American woman to earn a Ph.D. from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.
“I grew up basically not realizing that black people weren’t supposed to be interested in environment,” Taylor says. “Coming out of the British education system where I was specializing in botany and zoology, I loved flowers and just ran around always being engaged in environmental things and just being super turned on by it.”
But Taylor describes a different story when she arrived in the U.S. for her undergraduate degree. She walked into an environmental science class of about 60 students, only to find that she was the only non-white participant.
see: Diverse Green | Green Leadership August 29, 2014