As March comes to a close so does our blog series highlighting women working in the environmental field. This week, in our final installment we are profiling a Boston University student. Rachel Eckles is a senior double majoring in Environmental Analysis & Policy and Economics. Read more about Rachel and her path to the environmental field!
Which neighborhood do you live in?
I live in Allston, right off campus from BU. I love living in such a lively area after spending my childhood in the quiet residential neighborhoods of Dallas, Texas. The neighborhood I am in now has such a diverse community and creative culture that reminds me why I chose to move to Boston for school.
What is your background, and how did you come to work in the environmental field?
I am a senior at Boston University doing a double major in Environmental Analysis & Policy and Economics. I came into BU knowing I wanted to study environmental policy after taking a class my last semester of high school called Social Justice where I did my final project on the history of conflict caused by resource scarcity around the world. The project heightened my awareness of the social effects of climate change and drew me towards pursuing a career in climate change mitigation. While at BU, I have also been heavily involved in the campaign to divest BU from companies exploring for fossil fuel reserves as well as a few different campus sustainability initiatives. Most recently, I have been participating in the task force to develop a climate action plan for the university.
What organization do you currently work for?
I am currently on the hunt for a post-graduation job but I have had the opportunity to intern for some great organizations while a student in Boston. I was an intern in Better Future Project’s Climate Summer program in 2014 and, most recently, I worked on the Client Services team as an intern at WegoWise, a building utility analytics software company. Both experiences taught me valuable skills and knowledge that I can use in my work going forward, as well as some great lessons about myself. I’m very glad that being in Boston made these opportunities available to me.
What inspired you to pursue your career?
I think what inspired me to go into the field of environmental and social policy is the deep sense of optimism I feel about the future. I so desperately want to help create a world in which everyone can thrive and don’t know how I could keep working towards that without a belief that it is in fact possible. I feel like this story might help paint a picture of the kind of person I am. When I was a kid, I had an alarm set on my watch to go off every day at 11:11 so I could make a wish. I would make the same wish every day when the alarm went off: a wish for world peace and the end of global warming. And yes, I was that 8-year-old who wore a watch every single day.
What advice would you give young women starting out in the environmental field?
Be ready to speak up and stand behind your beliefs. I’ve been in a many settings with incredibly smart and experienced professionals who I admire greatly but who also sometimes don’t challenge their own presumptions. It can be terrifying to speak up in a meeting where you feel like a minority or where you feel under qualified, but your willingness to do so shows that you are critically thinking about what is being discussed and have the confidence to give your two cents. While being cognizant of your position as a young woman still developing into your role in the field, never doubt the value of your opinions.
What female figures have influenced you the most? Why?
Marla Marcum, a founder of Better Future Project and the Climate Disobedience Center, stands out as someone who has influenced who I am today. She has been influential for obvious reasons, such as developing and running Climate Summer, a program that gave me the opportunity to develop as a student leader, and is now leading a movement to normalize nonviolent civil disobedience as a tool to fight local fossil fuel infrastructure projects. Furthermore, she has also demonstrated to me how to live by the guidelines of being honest and confident. This has taught me so much about how those two qualities lead to such powerful empathy and compassion that can be the foundation of affecting change. I am so grateful to have her as a mentor.
What actions do you suggest women take today to get involved and make impact to act on climate?
I’ve heard many people say this and I strongly believe it to be true: women are better at preparing for the future than men. One example of this was when, during the economic crisis, Iceland faced a terrible bank fail in which every major bank defaulted on its loans, every bank except the one run by a woman. While gender and gender roles are quite arbitrary concepts, I believe that people with female sex organs have an inherent tendency to think about their own future in terms of others’ due to the fact that many of us will at some point in our lives have no choice but to make decisions about our life based on another human. Whether or not society can swallow it, I think women should continue to use our natural instinct for thinking long term and about others to try influence the discussions being held about climate action with full force. I would love to see a room full of female decision makers negotiating the next climate agreement, and not a single person raising their eyebrow about it. If a room can be full of males making decisions for the world without anyone questioning it, then the room should be perceived just as receptively when full of females.