Women’s History Month at the Chesapeake Bay Trust: Jana Davis
Let our female leaders tell you their stories!
When the Chesapeake Bay Trust was created in 1985, our goal was to help improve the watersheds of the Chesapeake Bay, the Maryland Coastal Bays and the Youghiogheny River. Part of this mission involves fostering the inclusion of individuals and groups from diverse backgrounds, including women. This year for Women’s History Month, we would like you to take a look at three women at the Trust who are leading in environmental work. Today, we will focus on Jana Davis, Executive Director at the Trust.
1) Can you tell me a little about yourself and what your role is at the Trust?
Jana: I am the director at the Trust, and I love it because it’s the perfect combination of two elements of my background: science and policy/management. My role at the Trust is really to support all the work that our amazing team members do; figure out a way to do it more easily, more efficiently, and better when possible; and determine whether there is some other direction we can/should go. The Trust has an incredible mission and such a unique and wonderful role in the community. We are a non-advocacy, independent, trusted entity that provides resources to groups to get amazing work done, which I love – the idea of helping other people get their goals accomplished – and that steps in to solve some key conundrums that others can’t.
2) What inspired you to become involved in Environmental work?
Jana: What inspired me was my love of natural resources like the ocean and bays and marshes and my love of being outdoors, and seeing what happens to certain parts of our outdoors. I don’t admit this too often, because I’m a proud Marylander now, but I did grow up on the Jersey shore during the era the Jersey shore because somewhat infamous for medical waste washing up on beaches. I think I just saw a late-night TV joke on this topic, so while the situation has much improved, it’s still on people’s minds. It crushed my heart to go out to beautiful spots like the back trails in the Sandy Hook Gateways National Recreation area – these secret spots that when I was a kid I thought were “mine” – and see trash there. Later, I became a scientist (oceanography), and it seemed only natural to combine my love of the outdoors with my love of science – which to me is more about question asking and problem-solving than memorizing, say, part of a cell – to become part of the environmental management community.
3) What advice would you give a woman who wanted to pursue a career similar to yours?
Jana: Work hard, be smart, and never be afraid of anything!
4) What barriers have you faced as a female leader?
Jana: I know that many women have faced significant barriers to accomplish their goals, and obviously barriers still exist when we look at things like CEO demographics and the fact that we still haven’t had a female President of the United States. However, I have been very lucky in that I have been very supported along the way by people of all genders, or else worked so hard or was so blind to the barrier that I got my way anyway. I am the first female Executive Director of the Trust, and at the time, people made a few comments, but by the time I realized that fact, I had already gotten the job! Interestingly, at the time, the Trust had its first-ever female Chair of the Board of Trustees also.
5) What do you think are the qualities of a great leader?
Jana: Hard work, great vision, ability to get back up when knocked down, empathy.
6) Who is a woman that inspires you now or in the past? How have you used their lessons in your growth?
Jana: I’m going to name two women: One who for me represents all the women over the centuries who have played a historically downplayed role in so many great human discoveries, and one who directly helped me in my career. The first is Katherine Johnson (and her colleagues), made famous in the book and movie Hidden Figures, though of course she and her colleagues were famous in certain circles long before that. Katherine Johnson of course was one of the “computers” who worked at NASA in the 1950s and 60s and who were responsible for so many missions and calculations behind them, most notably the one that put a human on the moon and the backbone of our current GPS system. To me, she represents all the women on whose shoulders so many great discovers stand, but who in the past have not gotten their due in the history books, such as Marie Curie, Catharine Littlefield Greene, Barbara McClintock, Grace Murray Hopper, Marie Maynard Daly, Maria Mitchell, Flossie Wong-Staal, etc. My graduate school advisor, Dr. Lisa Levin, was personally a huge inspiration. She works so hard, excels in her field, and never complains. She was a huge inspiration to me when I was a graduate student.
Thank you for celebrating Women’s History Month with the Trust! We encourage you to look at women in your life who have influenced you and thank them for their inspiration.