International Women’s Day 2022: An Interview with Kavita Prakash-Mani, CEO of Mandai Nature
International Women’s Day is celebrated all around the world on 8 March. This year’s theme, #BreaktheBias calls for a world free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination. A world that is diverse, equitable, and inclusive, and where difference is valued and celebrated.
Kavita Prakash-Mani, CEO of Mandai Nature, which hosts the ASAP Secretariat, shares her journey and insights with us this International Women’s Day.
Tell us about yourself and how you began your journey in conservation.
The early years of my life in India were spent in the Himalayas – an area of extraordinary beauty – and since then I have wanted to work to protect and celebrate nature. Professionally, after my MBA in India, I went to the US to study environmental marketing (linking products to environmental attributes) and ended up working with the World Resources Institute on developing demand for renewable energy. Since then I have worked with consultancies, companies and NGOs, most recently WWF as their Global Conservation Director. And have worked on projects as diverse as plastics in the ocean to reducing ivory demand in China.
What are some of the challenges faced by women in conservation? Have you experienced any prejudices or challenges and how did you overcome them?
I have mainly worked with the larger NGOs and organisations and find that while there are more women overall and especially at junior and mid-level, as we get to the top, the ratio changes. This, of course, is also seen in other fields of work. In field-based conservation, one tends to find a different blend. Personally, I have not faced any prejudice but have felt that women need to work harder and deliver more to prove themselves. My strategy has always been to deliver results – they speak for themselves!
Are there any women that have created a lasting impact on your life?
Role models are very important for young people to look up to, be inspired by and learn from. I have been lucky to have such role models – women and men. Whether one learns from afar from people like Jane Goodall or Wangaari Mathai or have colleagues and bosses who influence on a day-to-day basis. We should be open to all sorts of influence. These days, I find, I learn more from and am inspired by the younger generation – seeing the courage of young women like Greta Thunberg and equally seeing the determination and knowledge of my own team.
With Mandai Nature supporting projects and organisations working to halt species loss, restore ecosystems, engage communities and mitigate climate change, what are some of the wider goals and plans Mandai Nature has to encourage environments in which women can thrive?
We are very pleased to support the efforts of ASAP in training and supporting women leaders. While there is a lot we can all learn to help us in our day-to-day management, I feel that the sense of camaraderie and circle of friendship we can build, helps women leaders a lot more. To be able to ask for advice in a safe space or to just even share experiences. We hope we can enable such formal and informal support through ASAP and the Mandai Nature partners.
What advice would you give to young women who are starting out on a career in conservation?
Don’t give up! We need all our youth to be in conservation, and women especially as they bring a different perspective. We need diversity in conservation as we need diversity in nature. The road may not be easy, look for mentors, ask for help. But continue the good work!
Featured image by Merlijn van Weerd