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The Planet
Letter from the President:
Women on Board

By Jennifer Ferenstein, Sierra Club President

As women wedded to wilderness, we must realize...that our individual voices matter and our collective voice can shatter the status quo that for too long has legislated on behalf of power and far too little on behalf of life.
-Terry Tempest Williams

Every spring, Sierra Club members are asked to vote for five candidates to serve on the board of directors. Fifteen dedicated volunteers make up the board and are responsible for setting the Club's conservation policy, overseeing its financial health and improving the Club's ability to effectively communicate its conservation mission.

In recent years, few women have chosen to run for the board. In addition, it is a perennial concern that few people of color choose to seek election to the board. As president, I appoint volunteers to serve on the Nominating Committee, which recruits and interviews potential candidates to run for election to the board. We are seeking to increase the number of women and minorities willing to run for election by encouraging qualified individuals to seek nomination. The committee is also examining the possible obstacles facing women and minorities so that we can work to remove them.

Yes, being a member of the board takes considerable time and energy - there are five regularly scheduled meetings a year plus some additional conference calls and e-mail correspondence - but the rewards make it well worthwhile. Yes, being a board member means grappling with an array of issues - some mundane, some seemingly intractable - but the work is satisfying and necessary.

The Nominating Committee has started accepting applications and would like to hear from interested volunteers by Sept. 15. If you are interested in running, or know of someone who is qualified, please contact committee chair Debbie Heaton at (302) 378-8501 or

Our goal is to increase the gender and ethnic diversity within our movement and within the Sierra Club leadership so that it better reflects the range of issues and people affected by our work. From trade to toxics, from environmental justice to wilderness, being a member of the board means working together to increase the power of the grassroots.

Jennifer Ferenstein is the first president of the Sierra Club to hail from the Northern Rockies region of Montana, Wyoming and Idaho. At age 37, she is the youngest woman to serve in this role since the Sierra Club was founded in 1892.

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