Erin "Flo" Floriani '14 of Readsboro, Vt., took a spot on the international stage last month when she presented her paper on "Ecofeminism: Environmentalism as a Women's Issue" in Abu Dhabi at the "Women as Global Leaders" conference.
The conference drew participants from more than 85 countries. In addition to Floriani, attendees heard from speakers such as actress Sigourney Weaver and the UK's Baroness Helena Kennedy of The Shaws.
A sociology major with minors in anthropology and environmental studies, Floriani argued in her presentation that because environmental problems affect women and girls at a disproportionate rate, advocating environmental justice should be a top priority for those concerned with improving women's lives, health and safety.
"I've always been very concerned about issues of environmental injustice - the tendency of environmental crises and hazards to affect lower-income or otherwise disadvantaged people over others," Floriani explained. "Last year, I took an environmental sociology course that I found really inspiring.
"This past summer, I was doing a lot of reading on my own about the global feminization of poverty and I started seeing the connections between suppression of women and the exploitation of nature. I felt it was important for me to advocate for both women and the environment."
"Flo had a terrific presentation. I was very proud of her!" said Petra Hejnova, who teaches Floriani's "Women as Global Leaders" class.
Floriani's work was well-received by those who attended her presentation. One young woman from central Asia asked for her contact information because she wants Floriani's help with a project on ecofeminism.
"The speakers and interacting with the other delegates were equally interesting, because it was all about hearing different perspectives from around the world," Floriani said. "Even though the conference was about 'Women as Global Leaders,' it was clear that, depending on cultural and national background, the women at the conference had very different visions regarding the role and future of women's leadership."
Pictured at right: Floriani, left, with Jessica Russo '13 of Pittsfield, Mass.
The experience enhanced her educational experience in two major ways.
"I have terrible stage fright when it comes to presentations. It's painful," Floriani explained. "My hope is that, in the future when I have pre-presentation jitters, I can remind myself that if I could do it in Abu Dhabi, I can do it in North Adams. My jitters haven't been cured, but hopefully by the time I'm in my career, I'll be over that stage fight.
"Second, I think it was very valuable to have this research project to complete somewhat outside of school," she continued. "Yes, it was presented on a school trip, but it was something 'extra' that I elected to do, that wasn't assigned for a requirement. I think it's important, especially for students at a liberal arts school, to find topics outside of the curriculum that they're passionate about exploring on their own."
Going forward, Floriani wants to find meaningful ways to translate her passion for social and environmental causes into significant actions, whether in the United States or abroad. In her sophomore year at MCLA, she is considering graduate school.