Dexter Hedgepeth

Honoring Trailblazers for Women's History Month

Who are the women that have inspired you? They may be family members, colleagues or individuals admired for their strength of character and invaluable contributions to improving the world around them. They are women who left an indelible mark on our lives, serving as catalysts for positive change and progress. At Defenders of Wildlife, we find inspiration in the many women who have left an enduring legacy in the field of conservation as well as society.

Women’s History Month causes us to reflect on the women who have shaped our world and to follow their example in creating a better place for the next generation.

Defenders CEO Jamie Rappaport Clark stands in front of a group sitting in chairs around a conference table. Jamie is speaking and there is a presentation pulled up behind her.
The History of Women’s History Month

Women’s History Month traces its origins to a "Women’s History Week" celebration in Santa Rosa, California, in 1978. Thereafter, it evolved into a nationwide recognition when President Jimmy Carter’s 1980 proclamation elevated women’s contributions to a national celebration. President Carter’s pronouncement, emphasizing the indispensable role women played in shaping America’s values and ideals, remains poignant today.

Eventually, in 1987, Congress expanded this week to encompass an entire month, formally establishing "Women’s History Month" every March. This month-long observance serves as a platform to acknowledge the achievements, leadership and resilience of women across all fields and endeavors.

The theme for 2024, "Women Who Advocate for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion," as designated by the National Women’s History Alliance, underscores the ongoing efforts of women nationwide to champion these fundamental principles in society. 

Women Who Inspire Me 

Educators and colleagues like Claretha Richardson, Shelley Brazley and Makeba Clay are personal heroes of mine and have played instrumental roles in shaping my (and so many others) commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion and justice. Through their mentorship and dedication, they have instilled in me the values necessary to advocate for positive change. 

2024.03.04 - Makeba Clay - DC- Makeba Clay
Image Credit
Makeba Clay
Makeba Clay is the Vice President of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at the Pew Charitable Trusts.

Women in politics have shattered barriers and paved the way for future generations. Shirley Chisholm’s historic journey as the first Black woman elected to Congress, and her groundbreaking bid for the presidential nomination, serves as a testament to her personal courage and the importance of representation in politics.

The historic election of Kamala Harris as the first woman, first Black woman, and first South Asian woman to serve as Vice President of the United States is a milestone moment for women and especially women of color. Her ascent to the second-highest office in the nation inspires a new generation of leaders to pursue their aspirations without the barriers experienced by women in previous generations.

2021.03.05 - Kamala Harris - DC - Lawrence Jackson/White House
Image Credit
Lawrence Jackson/White House

In the realm of conservation, trailblazers like Dr. Dorceta Taylor and Dr. Vandana Shiva stand as beacons of environmental stewardship. Dr. Taylor was the first to document the lack of diversity in the environmental movement and ultimately challenged the status quo in a predominately white, male field. Dr. Shiva’s unwavering dedication to sustainable agriculture and biodiversity conservation has sparked a worldwide movement to inspire action towards a brighter, greener future.

These are just a few of the many women who have led change to advance a more equitable and inclusive world.

Celebrate Their Stories

As we celebrate Women's History Month, let us honor the women who inspire us. These and many other stories serve as reminders of the resilience, determination and unwavering spirit of women throughout history. Amplifying their voices and acknowledging women’s contributions reaffirm our commitment to creating a more equitable and inclusive society for all.


Dexter Hedgepeth HeadShot

Dexter Hedgepeth

Vice President

Dexter Hedgepeth joined Defenders of Wildlife as Vice President of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Justice (DEIJ) in January 2024, playing a key role in shaping


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