Family Forest Blog

#AFFWomen: Maya Solomon

American Forest Foundation

March 15, 2024

Today we're highlighting another impactful voice making a climate impact. This Women's History Month, we're taking the time to sit down with #AFFWomen and learn about what drove them to the conservation field. The women at AFF work tirelessly to improve our forests, support American landowners, and benefit our communities. They hail from different backgrounds and have unique stories to tell — but they all share the goal of leaving our planet better and healthier than we found it.

In our second 2024 edition of #AFFWomen, we're highlighting Maya Solomon. Maya is our Senior Director of Policy and Advocacy.


Maya-Outdoors

Maya on a hike through healthy, native forests.

How/why did you choose to work in forest conservation?

Growing up I would spend the afternoon tagging along with my grandfather. While everyone was picking produce, I escaped to the tree line to get lost in the woods. In high school my mom founded the Beginning Agriculture Youth Outreach Unlimited program hosted by Southern University- a summer enrichment program that introduced agriculture and natural resource career opportunities to high school sophomores and juniors, which helped me discover that I could turn a daily escape into a career. As my career unfolded, my passion for forest conservation, evolved from just desiring to be in the great outdoors into being driven to protect our natural resources so little girls and boys also have forests to escape to and discover their dreams.

What’s your favorite part of your career/job?

There are so many things I love about my job but there are two aspects that stick out the most. First, it’s the ability to innovatively create policy solutions that will have a positive impact on someone’s life or livelihood, which at the initial phases of policy can feel insurmountable. However, once you successfully make a policy shift and you hear success stories of how your work impacted a landowner’s ability to unlock resources to provide differently for their families and/or protect their land for future generations, I can’t help but be filled with pride. It’s important to me that my career achieves something much larger than myself.

Why is it important for women to be involved in forest conservation?

Women are nurturers and protectors, which allows us to look at matters holistically – often contributing to better resource governance and conservation outcomes. Women bring a resiliency, vulnerability, transparency, and resourcefulness to the field that is necessary to protect and conserve our most precious natural resources for future generations while making a climate impact.

In your opinion what needs to change, or what needs to be done, to increase women's involvement in forest conservation work?

The forest conservation space needs allyship from our male colleagues to advocate for equal representation of women in decision-making. It also requires other women to make space and paths for female peers and mentors. Long gone should be the days when anyone feels comfortable in homogenous decision-making rooms or even being the only representation. It should be standard to ensure there is diversity of thought, presences, and experience in every decision-making room, and the only way to achieve that is for diversity, inclusivity, and equity to be woven into the fabric of forest conservation practices and management.

Do you have a woman role model in the forest, conservation, or environmental space? Who is it and why?

Yes, there are several amazing women I look up to in this space. However, I will narrow it down to two women who really helped me to navigate the early years of my career. The first is the late Clara Johnson, a former District Ranger, who mentored me and several young professionals who were navigating being away from home and being the only person of color in the office and/or community. She gave us a safe space while providing us tools and resources to show up authentically in our workplaces. She was the person who helped me to see past just working in the great outdoors but also to really take time to see how my work achieved a mission much larger than myself.

The second person is Ms. Ellie Towns, who broke glass ceilings by becoming the first African American woman to serve in so many leadership positions, including Southwestern Regional Forester. In the early part of my career, it was not uncommon for me to be the only female and person of color in the room, so seeing an African American woman successfully navigate several leadership positions as the first, and to do it with grace and strong ethical leadership, gave me the inspiration to get past the difficult days and continue to see my future in forest conservation.

What advice would you give to women looking to pursue a career in forest conservation?

Forest conservation has space for you and needs your voice, knowledge, and experience. Sometimes job opportunities may not be exactly what you’re looking for, but it’s in those jobs that you discover new passions and interests. There will be challenges, but don’t quit! Because it is in your challenges that you will find your greatest growth and preparation for the next job. Also, don’t forget to look back, up, down, and to the side to help another women in forest conservation, natural resources or the environmental space.

What's your favorite tree?

Southern Magnolia

American Forest Foundation

March 15, 2024

Related Articles

March 12, 2024

#AFFWomen: Aimee Tomcho

This Women’s History Month, we are thrilled to highlight #AFFWomen – those that work tirelessly to improve our forests, support American landowners, and benefit our communities.

Read More

March 21, 2023

#AFFWomen: Tatiana Height

This Women’s History Month, we are thrilled to highlight the #AFFWomen who have unique stories to tell — but they all share the goal of leaving our planet better and healthier than we found it. In our third edition of this series, we sat down with Tatiana Height, AFF’s director of diversity, equity, and inclusion for the Family Forest Carbon Program.

Read More

March 16, 2023

#AFFWomen: Sierra Giraud

This Women’s History Month, we are thrilled to highlight #AFFWomen – those that work tirelessly to improve our forests, support American landowners, and benefit our communities. In our second edition of this series, we sat down with Sierra Giraud, AFF’s senior forestry manager in the Northeast for the Family Forest Carbon Program.

Read More