Francesca Vietor serves as Program Director for Environment, Public Policy, and Civic Engagement at The San Francisco Foundation, focusing on efforts to improve the environmental health of vulnerable communities, build resilience in the face of climate change, and protect the natural environment. Francesca is also Vice President of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, where she leads policymaking for the City and County of San Francisco’s water, wastewater, and municipal power services. Before that, she was executive director of the Chez Panisse Foundation, where she advanced nutrition education and food justice issues. Previously, she was president of the Urban Forest Council, president of the Commission on the Environment, and the chair of the Mayor’s Environmental Transition Team. She has worked for several non-profits, including Rainforest Action Network and Greenpeace, and she serves on the boards of SPUR and Environmental Working Group. Francesca holds a Bachelor of Sciences degree from Georgetown University and she pens a blog for The Huffington Post.
How did you become involved in your current career?
I became involved in my current career through a fortuitous combination of good luck, networking and hard work. I became interested in rainforests at a Sting/Suzanne Vega/Grateful Dead concert in 1987 and I set out to find an organization where I could volunteer to help save the rainforests. After a lot of research, outreach and letter writing, someone connected me to Randy Hayes who was starting the Rainforest Action Network. That was my first job in the environmental movement. When I was later working for Greenpeace, Mayor Willie Brown recruited me to start San Francisco’s Department of Environment. Several jobs later I am still working on environmental policy as a program director at The San Francisco Foundation and Vice President of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission.
What environmental issues are of most concern to you?
Climate change and the drought. We have to get a lot smarter about how to conserve our resources, especially water. I am also concerned that our kids are so disconnected from nature that they are not going to care about, or take care of the planet when they grow up.
What do you think are some challenges and opportunities facing women in the environmental movement today?
Finding work life balance is a challenge for working women, especially working moms. There are not a lot of women leaders in the environmental movement, which I believe is why we have not made more progress then we have. We need more leadership development programs for women to participate in the movement and excel. That said, there are more opportunities then ever before, probably because the problems are worse than they have ever been.
What are your suggestions on how WEN members can become more involved in your sector and the environmental movement?
Networking and hard work, which I mentioned before. Identify something you care about or want to work on and develop the skill set to make yourself competitive. Introduce yourself to people you admire or who inspire you. Online professional networks like LinkedIn and Twitter can help make connections so learn about social media if you haven’t already. Volunteering and internships can give you a foot in the door.