NPR’s Morning Edition reported on an African American woman who found a successful career in wildlife:
Mamie Parker, a former assistant director of fisheries and habitat conservation at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, was the first African-American to head a regional office for that agency. But when she started out in the field, she says, she “did not see anyone that looked like me doing this type of work.”
On being the only African-American female expert in the building
I remember my first job here in the D.C. area, and the janitors in the building, they just kept coming and peeking in, and I thought “What are they looking at?” And finally I saw one in the bathroom, and she said, “I’ve been here for almost 40 years,” and she said, “No African-American woman has been in here except to clean this office.” And for her it was a proud moment.
On the challenges of increasing diversity in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields
I think people from communities of color really suffer a lot from isolation, from feeling the need to prove themselves. And over time it becomes very difficult to continue to work at a pace like that, and you have to really believe that the benefits outweigh the cost. And then also, mentors are so important — having the right individual there for you when you think about quitting or you want to cry. A lot of times, I had to cry on the shoulders of those janitors in that building. You know, they were the ones that were there for me, telling me to get up and get back in the race again.