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ORIGINAL ARTICLE: Women’s “Choices” and Canadian Water Research and Policy: A Study of Professionals’ Careers, Mentorship, and Experiential Knowledge

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 March 2014

S.E. Wolfe*
Department of Environment and Resource Studies, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Canada.
Address correspondence to: S.E. Wolfe, Department of Environment and Resource Studies, University of Waterloo, 200 University Avenue West, Waterloo, Ontario, N2L 3G1 Canada; (phone) 519-888-4567 ext. 38690; (fax) 519-746-0292; (e-mail)
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This article is an investigation of the different factors that potentially influence the career choices of Canadian female professionals working in water research and policy (WRP). This community was broadly defined as any Canadian engineers, technicians, biologists, planners, economists, scholars conducting physical and social research, public servants (e.g., national, provincial, municipal), and civil society activists who were self-identified as working on water-related issues. Participants’ essay responses were assessed by using an integrated comparative framework—drawing insights from economics, social network theory, environmental psychology, innovation, knowledge management, and pro-environmental behavior. Focus was placed on participants’ responses about what motivated their careers, how this motivation sustained their professional participation over time, and whether different experiences with people and/or nature influenced their contributions to Canadian WRP. The data analysis indicated that female professionals draw on their relationships and experiential knowledge to make career decisions, sustain their career progression, and direct their career contributions. The analysis suggested that both recruitment and retention within the water community could be improved by providing recognition of alternative knowledge opportunities, including opportunities to develop skill mastery over existing or new skills, and experiential knowledge in nature for children, and by facilitating mentorship relationships and social networks. By doing so, these interventions would help sustain the availability of diverse knowledge resources held by female professionals within Canadian WRP.

Environmental Practice 16: 37–51 (2014)

© National Association of Environmental Professionals 2014 

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