September 23, 2021

Women in Leadership: Beyond Borders

For our eighth year in a row hosting Women in Leadership sessions at the AZA National Conference, we looked beyond our borders to learn from aquarium and zoo leaders in other countries and hear how we might better support each other in our leadership journeys. Our international panel reflects Zoo Advisors’ increased presence and desire to support zoological organizations outside North America: we recently joined WAZA as a commercial member and our moderator for this session, Kathy Wagner, addressed the European Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Directors Days Conference in April 2021, presenting a similar “Women in Leadership” session with a multi-national panel of European women directors.

We were pleased to see many up-and-coming leaders in the audience and increased discussion about the importance of diversity and inclusion in our work. Participants suggested resources for leadership development; the complete list may be found at the end of this report.

Our Beyond Borders panel (listed below) shared their leadership journeys with attendees and engaged in a question-and-answer session with attendees. Here’s what we heard:

  • Many women are entering the profession, but often face barriers to advancement; having a strong female leader/supervisor can help break down or avoid those barriers and support development.

  • We are all in this together—it’s not “us vs. them” and many of us have had great male mentors and supporters. It’s not a battleground, it’s a collaboration.

  • Sometimes having the “wrong” job or a job you don’t like can lead you to the “right” path and passion and fulfillment for your career. Don’t be afraid to jump!

  • Take a risk; say “yes” to opportunities and have confidence—you don’t need all the answers. Dump the self-doubt.

  • Be a mentor–reach out to another or be available when someone calls. There’s a great support network out there in our global zoological community.

  • As women, we belong everywhere, but we have to do the work—power through!

Moderators: Kathy Wagner and Dr. Jackie Ogden


  • Peggy Sloan, Chief Animal Operations Officer, John. G. Shedd Aquarium

  • Myfanwy Griffith, Executive Director, EAZA

  • Jennifer Tracey, Senior Director, Strategic Communications and Guest Experience, ‎Toronto Zoo

  • María Clara Domínguez, Directora, Zoológico de Cali

  • Karen Fifield, MNZM, Chief Executive, Wellington Zoo

Resources (click on the title to link to the resource):

To view to the recording of this session, please visit the Ballroom (the same location where you join live sessions). It will be available to registered #AZA2021 attendees through the end of 2021.

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