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Badass Women at Any Age

Feb 8, 2022

Michelle Schuman overcame many difficult challenges to prove her worth as a female in a male-dominated profession. She is a great example of a true badass, mission-driven, courageous woman overcoming challenges and finding her purpose. Michelle is an environmental scientist with over four decades of experience in Alaska. She was a first responder to the Exxon oil spill, analyzing one of the most devastating and long-term, man-caused disasters in North American history. Michelle is passionate about protecting those who are underserved and undervalued. As a woman working for the federal government, she had to work harder for less pay than her male co-workers. She resigned from federal service in 1987, expanding her professional career into private consulting, state government and wetland science, and oil spill response. Although she suffered an unbearable loss, and the dangers of working in remote areas of Alaska, she never gave up. The true threat to her survival was not from the natural world but from the world of men who sought to tame her. Her book, The Understory: The Tale of a Women Environmentalist in the Land of the Midnight Sun, launched in January 2022. It is her personal story and memoir that shares her challenges as a female in a male-dominated profession and her adventures exploring endangered ecosystems around the world.


What You Will Hear in This Episode: 

Michelle's personal journey to where she is today

What were the drivers for her being a badass at an early age

What attracted her to environmental science

Why did she turn down a job with the Forest Service as a wildlife biologist 

Her experience working in Alaska as a range scientist

The challenges she had to go through to prove her worth as a female soil scientist to her male counterparts

Her fight to give justice to her husband, who was killed in a car accident in Alaska

Issue of gender bias she faced because of being a female 

The time when she was reassigned from her job due to sheer politics

What she learned about herself throughout her journey

What she regrets and wants to change in her journey


Notable Quotes:

"Women are wired for a reason, to be the nurturers, the fixers, and the protectors." 

"A mother will fight to death for the protection of her young ones."

"The most important mother we have is mother earth. And she is fighting back right now."

"It's always nice to have support and to believe in yourself that you can do whatever you want to do." 

"So much of our energy as women is focused externally, fighting to get some recognition in a male dominated space where we're very often set up to fail. That takes so much of our energy and focus that we don't have the awareness that we need to take care of ourselves, we need to know who we are." 



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