Sustainable Development Working Group02 March 2020In honor of International Women’s Day on 8 March, we spoke with some of the women who work with the Arctic Council to learn more about them, what it means to be a woman in their field and their advice for young women.Jennifer Spence is the Executive Secretary of the Arctic Council’s Sustainable Development Working Group (SDWG). The SDWG focuses on the human dimensions of the Arctic, working to protect and enhance the environment, economy, social conditions and health of Indigenous and Arctic inhabitants. We spoke with Jennifer about her unique career trajectory, the invisible bias many women face at work, the value of different perspectives women bring to the table, and her advice for young women to get out there and try different things. Can you tell us about yourself, your education and your current role? I have one of those careers that has not been a clear trajectory from point A to point B. The common thread throughout my career has been finding interesting ways of working with people and communities. I got my bachelor’s degree in political science and was very lucky to have the opportunity to work with First Nations in British Columbia, Canada on fisheries issues. I then worked for the United Nations Development Program in Nairobi, Kenya. I also worked with the National Police of Canada (RCMP) in Vancouver. After that I moved to Ottawa to continue my work in the federal government. In 2011, I decided that I wanted to continue to explore public policy from outside of the government system. I got my doctorate in public policy with a focus on Arctic governance. Working in the Arctic Council context gives me the opportunity to tie together my knowledge and experience with academia and the government policy making system. What is the most interesting project you have worked on and why? I cannot pick just one favorite, but I will talk about a good example. I got my master’s degree in conflict management, and after finishing that I had an opportunity to work with First Nations communities in British Columbia, Canada in dealing with conflict that had developed between fisheries officers – the enforcement arm of the Government of Canada – and communities who wanted to fish for salmon. I took on the role of working between those two worlds to find different ways of developing a relationship. We worked on projects to try to build new relationships, but also projects that could advance new ways of doing things. It gave me a lot of freedom to think of new and innovative ways to approach problems that have existed for decades between a government organization and First Nation communities. I was helping to create an environment to empower those in conflict with each other to collaborate and come to their own solutions. These types of projects really bring together all the elements I enjoy – learning, growing and working collaboratively.