Stewarding the environment and influencing communities through consulting

Ali Figueroa, Environmental Risk Consultant

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As a Compliance Consultant, Ali Figueroa works in the North America Environmental Risk division. Her work involves helping clients understand and comply with environmental regulations at the federal, state, and local level.

QWhat advice would you give to your younger self?

Set healthy boundaries around workload and working hours! Work-life balance will be key to your happiness and fulfilment over the years, and your job is just one of many important pieces of your life.

Quick Q&A

Which woman or women inspire you?

I’m inspired by my grandma. She married young (like most women of her generation) and, after courageously leaving an abusive husband, spent most of her life working hard to provide for four kids as a single mother. She learned to be independent at a time when female autonomy was rare, and in doing so built a fulfilling life for herself and our family. At age 86, she is active, social, open-minded, witty, and confident. I feel incredibly lucky to have a role model like her in my life.

What do you do in your spare time?

I climb rocks! My favorite style of climbing is bouldering, which involves climbing shorter routes without ropes or a harness for protection. I climb at a gym during the week, but I love spending my Saturdays at a local crag, solving problems and enjoying the outdoors with friends.

QThis year’s International Women’s Day theme is ‘Break the bias’, aiming for women’s equality and celebrating inclusivity. However, there don’t seem to be barriers for women entering consulting, ecology and similar roles. Why is this – what is this industry getting right? (And what else could it do?)

Our industry has a unique history, and I think there was some degree of coincidence involved that allowed women to get in on the ground floor in a way they couldn’t have in other, more established industries. The environmental industry (at least here in the US) really materialized in the 1980s when the Superfund program was established, and this was also a time when women were seeking higher education and entering the workforce in larger numbers. That’s not to say I think it’s all coincidence. Women are incredible at supporting and mentoring each other, and we make space for those who come after us to succeed. However, I think we still have a long way to go. In this industry, we are stewards of the environment, but there is very little representation of the people who are disproportionately affected by pollution and climate change—specifically, black, indigenous, and women of color from communities who rely heavily on the availability of natural resources. These women live with the impacts of environmental issues every day, but most lack the resources, education, mobility, and decision-making power to make a difference. This is a barrier that won’t be broken by coincidence—we have a responsibility to break it ourselves.

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