Then & Now Blog Series
Welcome to WEN Then & Now. In honor of WEN’s 20th anniversary in 2017, we’re reconnecting with our former board members, thinking about how our organization has evolved and grown, and planning for our next transformation. Follow along with us in this blog series as we spotlight these inspiring women. For our first post, WEN board member Shari Pomerantz chatted with Jenn Fox about how she benefited from her engagement with WEN and other nonprofits, her advice to young environmental professionals, and how her career path has unfolded. Enjoy!
About Jenn Fox
Jenn Fox is an environmental engineer focused on conserving natural resources and using them more efficiently to bring equitable prosperity. She has worked internationally as a Director at the ClimateWorks Foundation; regionally, leading land conservation at the Bay Area Open Space Council; and locally, writing the first greenhouse gas emissions reduction plan for the City of Oakland. Jenn is on the Board of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, and she holds a B.S. in Civil Engineering and an M.S. in Environmental Engineering from Stanford University.
Q&A with Jenn Fox
Why did you join the WEN Board? When were you a Board Member, and what did you gain from your experience with WEN?
I joined the Women’s Environmental Network (WEN) Board in the mid-1990s and was involved with WEN for about a decade. At the time, I was working for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on national air pollution regulations, and I was looking for a chance to be more involved locally. I loved my work, but my projects ranged from a geothermal plant in Hawai’i to a soil incinerator on an Arizona Indian reservation to emissions trading in Los Angeles.
Joining WEN and serving on the Board helped me get to know women who were working locally. I met a ton of folks, helped others get a window into what happens at the U.S. EPA, and learned about other ways of approaching environmental work.
How has WEN changed since the ‘90s?
For the first 10 years I was involved with WEN, we served a great (and basic) service of posting jobs, events, and announcements. The newsletter quickly grew to a 20-page monthly listing. WEN has grown a lot since then, and it is fantastic to see the breadth and regularity of WEN-sponsored events. In the Bay Area, we are blessed with so many events, organizations, and ways to get involved. That abundance of riches can, however, seem overwhelming to folks. WEN can help women hear personally about work going on in the Bay Area – ranging from job opportunities like those shared by the Bay Area Open Space Council to the chance to do bike advocacy through the SF Bicycle Coalition women bike.
What were some of your favorite WEN events from its earlier years?
We hosted an event about California’s energy challenges featuring women who were the most critical decision makers in the world of energy in California – a fascinating world post-Enron! I remember planning that gathering and helping to make it accessible and impactful for all attendees. First, we picked a format to encourage networking. Second, we built the program around a broad audience – each with a different baseline understanding of what it means to supply energy in a carbon constrained world, with record-setting natural gas and oil prices, conventional power plant and transmission limitations, and impacts on our land, water and air. And, third, we encouraged the speakers to share insights on our environmental policies, motivating all of us to think about how environmental programs can adapt and be relevant.
Which other organizations have you worked with? Which organizations are you active with today?
My professional career has been focused on land, water and energy conservation. I am also lucky to have been a volunteer for many years on land use planning and active transportation, including service on the Board of the League of American Bicyclists – an advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C. National service can be a stark reminder of political and economic differences in other parts of the country and help us consider context. For example, while on the League Board, we led an inclusion initiative, captured in The New Movement. Being a part of national and international advocacy also reminds us that the Bay Area serves as a national example. I found this to be true in my day job as well. As Executive Director of the Bay Area Open Space Council, our Conservation Plan and Progress Report was a model for other regional efforts. Simultaneously, I have made it a point to – and been lucky to – integrate my professional and volunteer advocacy work.
What is one of your most memorable experiences with WEN?
I distinctly remember one of the first people I met through my involvement with WEN: Sarah Diefendorf. Sarah and I were talking about our work on environmental issues and realized that we both worked with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Sarah directed the EPA Environmental Finance Center West and I worked on air pollution and cross media programs. We probably would never have met if not for WEN! Sarah and I still keep in touch. About 10 years ago, we met again as we were both working internationally. And more recently, we’ve talked about issues facing tribes in California and land conservation and climate adaptation solutions.
Can you tell me more about your current professional life and your international work?
Working internationally – in multiple roles for the ClimateWorks Foundation – was an incredible job. ClimateWorks has just published the Carbon Transparency Initiative, which tracks trends in greenhouse gas emissions, considering both underlying policies at the national and international level, and the pace of market investments and technological advances. My last project was with the Water Funder Initiative – producing Toward Water Sustainability: A Blueprint For Philanthropy.
What skills and experiences did you gain with WEN?
WEN offers the opportunity to learn – and practice – nonprofit governance through board service. Since serving on the WEN Board, I’ve been on both national and local boards of directors. On all of these boards, when we interview potential board candidates, we’re hoping to find individuals with experience managing nonprofit organizations. And, over the past several years, WEN Board Members have gained that experience – taking WEN from a fiscally sponsored organization to an independent 501c3, fundraising to build a long-term financial path, considering ways to grow diversity in the organization and environmental work more broadly, and engaging members in a strategic plan. In this way, WEN Board Members are not only helping WEN but also growing their own skills that will help them serve other nonprofits. I tip my hat to the current WEN Board and am thrilled to see WEN growing and thriving.
What are your suggestions on how WEN members can become more involved in your sector and the environmental movement?
WEN offers the opportunity for people to look across sectors, organizations, and levels of focus (regional, national, local, etc.) to see the many different approaches to environmental work. Our work for social and environmental change will require even more complex partnerships of the public, private, and nonprofit. I encourage WEN members to develop their own specialties, get experience in on-the-ground project work, and continue to think about how to collaborate with others, especially those who might come from different backgrounds, different fields, and different approaches.