a woman talking to a group of men in military uniform.
Munira Bashir interacts with rangers from Kiunga Community Conservancy at their camp in Kiunga, Kenya. © Mwangi Kirubi

Mark Tercek

This International Women’s Day, Take the Panel Pledge

Mark Tercek Former Chief Executive Officer


This weekend, Frances McDormand closed her Oscars award speech for best actress with two words: “inclusion rider.”

A lot of people, including me, had to look it up. An inclusion rider is a stipulation that actors or actresses can put in their contracts requiring a certain level of diversity among a film’s cast and crew.

I think this is a really good example of someone using their influence in a very smart way to help elevate others. This year on International Women’s Day, we should all challenge one another to find the equivalent of an inclusion rider in our fields, and commit to it.

I did this recently by pledging to no longer accept invitations to speak on panels of all-white men. It wasn’t my idea. A colleague at The Nature Conservancy suggested it to me. Pledges like these ensure that event organizers recruit and feature more diverse voices, such as women and other under-represented groups. Now, I’m encouraging my colleagues and friends at other organizations to do the same. In the environmental world, I all too often find myself on a stage surrounded by people who look exactly like me. And I want to try to do something about this.

a young woman helps measure trees in a city park.
LEAF interns monitor trees impacted by Hurricane Sandy in New York City and logging information into the Healthy Trees, Healthy Cities application. © Karine Aigner

In my role leading TNC, I know we can’t achieve our mission without the full engagement of women. I want TNC to be a great place for all women to work: a place where women’s voices are heard; where women colleagues are fully engaged and have excellent opportunities to grow their careers; where women feel safe and respected; and where women can make their maximum contribution to our mission. We have changes we need to make for all of this to be possible.

To that end, we recently announced a set of actions we are taking on gender equity at TNC, from creating a panel of women leaders to advise me on gender equity matters, to requiring highly diverse hiring panels and candidate pools for high-level positions. These new initiatives are additive to other efforts already underway. For instance, we have a strong team, created several years ago, working on diversity, equity and inclusion and a series of well-received workshops on engaging across differences.

As for what I can do personally, taking the “panel pledge” is just one small step, and many more need to follow. I welcome input and suggestions from all.

I invite you to join me in taking the panel pledge, and any other action within your influence to improve gender equity. As the world reflects on the importance, power and influence of women today, every step counts.

For a good list of women speakers on conservation issues, visit the Diverse Environmental Leaders Speakers Bureau website. To request a woman scientist for an expert opinion on a news story or other opportunity, visit 500 Women Scientists.

If you have concerns about what organizers might say when you push back on an all-male panel invite, here are some useful FAQ’s.

Mark Tercek is the Former Chief Executive Officer of The Nature Conservancy, the global conservation organization known for its intense focus on collaboration and getting things done for the benefit of people and nature. He is the author of the Washington Post and Publisher’s Weekly bestselling book Nature’s Fortune: How Business and Society Thrive by Investing in Nature.

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