The Engagement of Women in Leadership in Tanzania's Wildlife Sector

Summary Brief


Women play a critical role in natural resource management around the world, yet they are largely excluded from leadership and strategic decision-making processes about landscape and wildlife governance.

In Tanzania, despite the growing interest of women in pursuing conservation careers and joining the wildlife sector, their inclusion at managerial levels has historically been limited. Furthermore, critical analysis of the factors influencing the participation of women in wildlife governance and leadership in Tanzania is lacking, thus reducing the effectiveness of policies and practices intended to mitigate gender imbalance.

African People & Wildlife brought together researchers from The Open University of Tanzania, the College of African Wildlife Management, and the Tanzanian Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism to examine the engagement of women in wildlife governance in Tanzania. This research sought to fill the existing knowledge gaps in the status, trends, and factors influencing women’s inclusion in wildlife management and leadership, and to inspire conservation institutions to give adequate attention to gender balance as a way of improving effective management of wildlife and wildlands.


Dr. Harrieth G. Mtae, Principal Researcher, Department of Economics and Community Economic Development, The Open University of Tanzania

Dr. Kezia H. Mkwizu, Researcher, Directorate of Research, Publications, and Innovations (Post doc), The Open University of Tanzania

Prof. Jafari R. Kideghesho, Researcher, The College of African Wildlife Management, Mweka

Dr. Maurus Msuha, Researcher, Ministry of Natural Resource and Tourism

The Engagement of Women in Leadership in Tanzania's Wildlife Sector
The Engagement of Women in Leadership in Tanzania's Wildlife Sector
The Engagement of Women in Leadership in Tanzania's Wildlife Sector
The Engagement of Women in Leadership in Tanzania's Wildlife Sector
The Engagement of Women in Leadership in Tanzania's Wildlife Sector
The Engagement of Women in Leadership in Tanzania's Wildlife Sector
The Engagement of Women in Leadership in Tanzania's Wildlife Sector

Key Takeaways

Lack of Women in Leadership

There are very few women in leadership positions in Tanzania's wildlife sector. Staff reported neutral to slightly positive feelings about the number of women in leadership positions, while students were aware of the gender imbalance and generally agreed that the number is too low.

Woman leading a meeting
Woman leading a meeting

More Education Needed

Despite efforts in Tanzania's government to formalize gender policies at a ministerial and departmental level, the majority of staff and students are unaware of these policies, believe they are not implemented well, or suggest that they are not monitored effectively.

Women studying a notebook
Women studying a notebook

Barriers to Participation

There is a general lack of awareness among all staff on organizational policies and priorities regarding gender balance, and there is a discrepancy between male and female perceptions of the extent to which organizational culture and behaviors contribute to gender imbalance in the workplace.

Woman game scout
Woman game scout

Recommended Actions

  • Include a gender module in staff orientation

    Informed by the finding that longer term staff are more aware of the socio-cultural barriers to women’s professional advancement than newer staff, we recommend a gender module be included in new staff and/or student orientation for all the institutions included in this study. Introducing gender mainstreaming in the workspace during orientation will benefit new staff and/or students by providing them with critical context and understanding of gender issues before they begin interacting with colleagues and communities as a representative of their new institution.

    Including a gender module in orientation will also benefit the institutions by demonstrating organizational commitment to gender equity. Such a module should be designed in collaboration with experienced gender specialists and may include topics such as:

    • Definitions of terms related to gender and diversity
    • Demography of Tanzania, highlighting diversity and minority groups
    • History of gender balance in Tanzanian government, the private sector, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs)
    • Global, national, and organizational policies and commitments to gender equality
    • Ongoing actions by the institution to promote gender equity and the results
  • Conduct annual gender equity workshops for all staff

    The findings from this study showed several areas where male and female perceptions of gender issues differed significantly. This disconnect can cause ineffective policy and programming since those making the policies may have very different problem definitions than those affected by the policies. We recommend each represented institution conduct an all-staff gender equity workshop each year. These workshops will provide a formal platform for women to discuss the issues that impact them the most and the challenges they face both in and outside the workplace. Further, the workshops will be particularly important for men since they will have the opportunity to listen, participate, and learn from their female colleagues and better understand and exchange their points of view.

    By normalizing discussions on gender-related issues through annual workshops, wildlife institutions will create a culture of openness and mutual understanding that will, in the long-term, strengthen their operational effectiveness. These workshops should be designed and facilitated by experienced gender specialists and may include sessions on:

    • Team building and organizational goal setting
    • Understanding the social, cultural, and organizational barriers to women in leadership
    • Identifying and deconstructing personal biases related to gender and diversity
    • Recognizing gender equality versus gender equity
    • Testimonials from women staff and leaders
    • Small group gender action planning
    • Brainstorming ideas to create a more supportive work environment
    • Harassment and appropriate workplace behavior
  • Formalize gender policies through an awareness building campaign

    Based on the finding that awareness of gender policies is very low across all institutions studied, we recommend each organization conduct an internal review of their existing policies related to gender and ensure the following points are referenced:

    • Gender balance in all levels of the organization, including management and leadership
    • Gender sensitive recruitment methods
    • Family leave, childcare, paternity and maternity leave
    • Place of work and position transfers – family benefits and accommodation, particularly for those in protected area management who are frequently moved
    • Training requirements for all staff related to gender issues, including the orientation module and annual gender equity workshops
    • Harassment and appropriate workplace behavior
    • Sexist language, posts, videos, or other media sharing

    Depending on the current state of the gender policies as they are reviewed, revisions may or may not be necessary.

    Once gender policies have been reviewed and approved, each institution should begin raising awareness of these policies through one or more of the following actions:

    • Organization-wide email announcing the formalization of the policies
    • Printing and posting the policies in all offices
    • Posting the policies in organizational media sharing platforms like WhatsApp
    • Requiring all staff to read and sign the policies, on paper or electronically
    • Establishing a working group to monitor the implementation of the policies
  • Implement a mentorship program for young women professionals

    The research findings also suggest that women in the wildlife sector would benefit from increased camaraderie, safe spaces, and general mentorship from other female professionals. Therefore, we recommend that the participating institutions, including both the protected area management authorities and the academic and capacity building institutions, engage in a cross-departmental mentorship program. Women in leadership positions could apply to be mentors to students, new employees, or other women professionals who feel they would benefit from the program.

    The mentors and mentees could then be matched for a 1-year, formal mentorship which could continue informally after the year is over. Mentors would be advised by an experienced gender specialist and activities could include:

    • Shadowing
    • CV review
    • Mock interviews and interview preparation
    • Networking support
    • Joint field excursions

The photos included on this page and in this report, courtesy of African People & Wildlife, are for illustrative purposes only and do not depict researchers or participants in the study.

A diversity of perspectives, experiences, and ideas is vital to the long-term sustainability of development projects, conservation outcomes, and business strategies alike. Thus, it is to the benefit of all individuals, institutions, and societies to foster an environment of equity.