Focus on IWD: Janine Felson

In celebration of International Women’s Day on March 8, the Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning is shining a light on the integral work and careers of a selection of our staff. Janine is a research fellow with the Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute. Before joining the Institute, she spent two decades in multilateral climate diplomacy as a leading advocate of small island developing states.

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Who have been influential in guiding, supporting, or mentoring you?

I grew up in Belize, a country in Central America, at a time when my people still pledged allegiance to a Queen from a distant shore.  I was a child when Belize gained her independence, but I was very much a child of the struggle for her self-determination.  Indeed, up until my journey here to Australia, I was still continuing that struggle albeit not against colonialism but now in the face of the disruptive nature of climate change and the exogenous shocks that countries like my own are forced to grapple with.

Throughout my life, there has been no want of inspiration of courageous voices from family, from my country or the world over, who brave the odds, speak truth to power, in restless pursuit of the greater good whether for community, or for humanity.

Do you have a strategy that you can share with us which has helped you in overcoming major challenges in your career?

Drawing on my own experience, growing up at a time when the yoke of colonialism was finally being ruptured, it was clear to me then as it is now that you must be the author of your own story, you must be able to shape if not control narratives.  I would like to extend that lesson to how we face contemporary challenges. The odds can easily be stacked against us until we start changing the script that define those odds.  The young women who are today speaking out against violence against women are doing just that.

What is one piece of advice that can share with women in academia and the built environment on how we can shape more inclusive workplaces?

One final word, for international women’s day, the issues that are often categorized as “women’s issues” are in the end societal and global issues.  Everyone has a role to play to correct that narrative.

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