A new documentary special Women Of Impact: Changing The World, premiered October 26th on National Geographic and narrates the stories of over 40 women across a wide spectrum of disciplines, backgrounds and generations. Narrated by Juliana Marguiles, the documentary includes interviews with fabled ocean explorer Sylvia Earle, photographer Ami Vitale, ethologist Dr. Jane Goodall and ecologist Dr. Rae Wynn-Grant. Many of the women interviewed are among the first women in their field, and they discuss the difficulty of blazing that trail. Others are the second generation of women in their professions, and express deep gratitude and admiration for the women who came before them in the documentary, and how they are continuing their legacy of inspiring more women to join their ranks.
Though all of the women worked incredibly hard to reach their respective positions and they often suffered from sexism and other obstacles to achieve recognition, the message they send throughout the documentary is, “If we can do it, you can do it.”
Below is some of the advice and encouragement the leaders across disciplines want women on their way to know about working in male dominated fields:
You Have To Want It
The documentary discusses various obstacles women have to overcome such as sexism and balancing family with their career, and journalist Robin Roberts explained you must confront you obstacles and just go for it. “I wish had a magic formula to tell people, especially women, what they can do to achieve but, you got to want it more than fear it,” she said.
A Dream Job Can Be Tough On A Family, But You Can Make It Work
One issue the documentary delves into is how women balance demanding jobs with family. National Geographic photographer and storyteller Annie Griffiths is one of the first female photographers for National Geographic who she has worked in over 150 countries. She is also a mother, and Griffiths views motherhood as an asset for her job. “So often I’ll have someone raise their hand and ask, ‘Yeah but can you really do this and raise a family?’ One of the best passports to women’s lives for me is when they realize I’m a mother. Then I’m not so strange, then there’s something I can grab onto, you know? We know each other.”
Though the logistics were difficult, she made them work. Griffiths made a commitment she wouldn’t leave her kids for more than 2 weeks before they graduated high school, and she didn’t. Sometimes she brought her children on work trips with her, and did not mention it because no one was asking men about their childcare. After five years she began discussing it because she wanted to encourage women, especially mothers, to enter the field, and show them they could have both. “This job can be really tough on families, but you can do it,” she said.
Don’t Be Afraid To Try A New Approach
Dr. Heather J. Koldewey and Dr. Jenna Jambeck lead Sea To Source Expeditions studying plastic pollution in waterways, and they are trying a new approach to balancing family and field work. They share the lead job, and start and finish the expedition together but swap in between to balance their jobs with their families. “By sharing the job we can completely dedicate our time while we’re here, then we can go back and see our family,” said Dr. Jambeck.
Their Work And Accomplishments Are Proof You Can Do It Too
While her friends wanted to watch cartoons after school, Dr. Rae Wynn-Grant, a conservation scientist and large carnivore ecologist wanted to watch nature documentaries. She knew one day she wanted to be host them, and inspire other people to believe they can do it too. “I hope my identity and my face in this work can inspire people like me, or people from non-traditional backgrounds to see themselves in this work and see themselves contributing ideas and being leaders in environmental protection,” she said. “And at the heart of it that’s my ultimate goal”
The Messenger Matters As Much As The Message
National Geographic photographer Ami Vitale helps end the doc by urging people, especially women, to summon your courage and speak-up, pursue your passions, be an active participant in things you care about because what you say and do is meaningful. “My final message for others is not to sit this one out, to engage, because every voice matters, and the messenger matters just as much as the message itself.”