2021 Outstanding Achievement Award
Women of Fisheries Inc.
Chelsey Crandall (President)
Kerry Flaherty Walia (Vice President)
Kim Bonvechio (Secretary/Treasurer)
Janice Kerns (Board Member)
In 2018, Women of Fisheries launched as a private Facebook group to provide a space for women to discuss concerns and support each other in the face of challenges. The response to this type of communication and sharing has been overwhelming and within 2 years, the Facebook group has grown from its initial founders to more than 1,200 women from over 40 countries, and from a Facebook group into a nonprofit organization. This group has fostered discussions on sexism, representation, and fieldwork accommodation by providing a space for women to share their stories with each other and seek advice.
Since its inception, job sharing and career development opportunities have been a core part of the communications and resources the group provides. From regular job postings and networking threads, to a week dedicated to highlighting different career paths, to a month focused on in-depth job discussions about interviewing, negotiating, and transitions within our profession. To improve networking opportunities, the group hosted a book club and initiated a mentoring program. The Women of Fisheries pilot mentorship program matched 41 participants with mentors and mentees based on shared experiences and career goals. The program started with an optional pre-survey to evaluate the impact of mentorship programs like these on feelings of self-confidence, empowerment, and knowledge. The post-survey is now in progress and based on results, the group will adjust and expand the program. To build compacity and financial support to women in fisheries, the group also completed its very first fundraiser, the fisHER Adventure Classic, which encouraged participants to get outside and share their stories.
As the organization has grown, there was also a desire to publicize group efforts and engage with allies, this has led to the creation of a forward-facing website and public Facebook page. With this expansion and wish to spark conversations for all fisheries professionals, the group began blog post series that incorporated profiles of women in science, research highlights by women of fisheries, and discussion highlights that summarize some of the energetic discussions the private Facebook group has had over the past 2+ years.
With the challenges COVID-19 has brought to our field, the Women of Fisheries organization again stepped up to meet the needs of its network by posting several pandemic check-ins throughout the year including poking a bit of fun at our new “co-workers” (i.e., our furry, four legged friends and family members), to hosting 2 happy hours including one for the virtual American Fisheries Society 2020 meeting’s Diversity and Inclusion day and one another in December to reflect on the challenges of this past year.
The administration of the Women of Fisheries, Inc is comprised entirely of members or alumni of FLAFS and include Chelsey Crandall (President and original brainchild for the group), Kerry Flaherty Walia (Vice President), Kim Bonvechio (Secretary/Treasurer), and Janice Kerns (Board Member). Collectively, this group has close to 60 years of experience working in Florida and almost 70 years of working in the fisheries profession in general. Their involvement and diversity of experiences each has had, has become an invaluable component to the volunteer work they accomplished to not only start but also to maintain this organization and has led to a grassroots effort to improve our understanding and support regarding issues of inclusion and connection of women in the fisheries science field.