Owning Her “Seat at the Table:” Meghan Macaluso Champions Women Leaders, Nature Experiences

“People from Colorado are just like folks from the Bay Area: we love to get outdoors.”

Hailing from Denver, our Chief Development Officer is well-versed in breathtaking views. Every summer, Meghan Macaluso and her family would go hiking, biking, and camping in the Rockies. With her wonderfully dry humor, Meghan stresses: in working for Save The Bay, “the irony I had a landlocked upbringing is lost on no one.”

Yet, she fits right in here as a powerful woman leader pushing for change. Save The Bay was founded by three East Bay women who read a troubling piece in The Oakland Tribune and changed the narrative themselves. Outraged about the fate of our Bay should reckless development continue, this trio confronted wealthy landowners, massive companies, and influential politicians.

Meghan knows what it’s like to challenge the system. “I had my ‘a-ha’ moment in middle school. A really creepy outside group came and gave an abstinence-only presentation to our class. My mom was super upset when I told her, and we went down to the principal’s office. We made clear that the presentation was ‘wholly unacceptable,’ and that group never came back to our school.” That was Meghan’s first taste of what it meant to advocate for change and win.

But Meghan didn’t stop there. After college, she carved her own path in the non-profit world, eventually moving up to a leadership position with NARAL Pro-Choice America. It’s where Meghan learned the importance of “empowering women, giving them the tools they need to make the best decisions for themselves and their families.”

Meghan speaking at a Save The Bay event
Meghan speaking at Blue 2017

Not surprisingly, Meghan was thrilled to switch gears and lead Development at an organization that champions strong-willed women. She’s moved by all that Save The Bay’s founders, “a small group of caring people,” accomplished to protect our Bay. She finds it “so unusual, too, for women to have a seat at the table at the time they did.”

Now, Meghan truly owns her “seat at the table.” “I’d say I’m a strong leader, generally – but by leading with compassion and inclusivity.” Meghan says our Executive Director deserves some credit for this. “I have an extraordinary relationship with David Lewis, a really special one where he mentors me as a female leader.”

Whether the issue is women’s rights or environmental justice, Meghan firmly believes: “the only times in history when we’ve seen change are when people put aside their differences and work together.”

She feels one of the best ways to inspire advocates for our Bay is to bring them right to the water’s edge. During last year’s Blue cruise, Meghan was glad to see “people breathing deeply, snuggling up with their partner,” having “a powerful experience” on the Bay. “It’s a recharge moment — you breathe in fresh air and it cleans out your system, mentally and physically.”

Meghan's son enjoying the beach
Meghan’s son enjoying the beach!

It’s why Meghan and her husband work hard to show their three-year-old son our Bay’s natural beauty. “We’ve been going on ‘nature walks’ since he was in a carrier, like a little monkey in front of me.” One of their favorite spots? Alameda’s Crowne Memorial Beach, where the water is “super gentle and kids of all ages can splash around.”

But inspiring her own son to value our Bay isn’t good enough for Meghan. She works tirelessly to raise funds for Save The Bay so that every Bay Area family can enjoy the outdoors. “What’s really driving me? Ensuring all children have a clean, healthy environment where they can thrive.”


This Women’s History Month, we are celebrating the courageous women leaders of Save The Bay, past and present. In 1961, Sylvia McLaughlin, Kay Kerr, and Esther Gulick challenged the system and formed a movement to Save The Bay. Decades later, determined women scientists, educators, and policy experts move our mission forward.

CHAMPION COURAGEOUS WOMEN - DONATE TODAY!

 

Saving the Bay: a movement started by women

 

Our founders’ legacy — one of courage, persistence, diligence, and success — has inspired today’s generation of Bay savers to carry on their mission to protect our greatest natural treasure for generations.

Before we celebrated the first Earth Day in 1970 and the first full-length issue of Ms. Magazine hit newsstands in 1972, major progress in the Bay Area was already underway thanks to a trio of East Bay women who dared to question environmental and social norms.

In the early 1960s going green wasn’t hip, nor was the idea of preserving the natural environment. During that time the Bay, often dredged for development, looked like a devastated wasteland flowing with raw, smelly sewage that also doubled as a dumping ground for toxic trash.

Four years after Kay Kerr, Sylvia McLaughlin, and Esther Gulick founded Save San Francisco Bay Association (later renamed Save The Bay) in 1961, the McAteer-Petris Act placed a moratorium on additional filling of our Bay and established the first coastal protection agency in the United States called the Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC).

The passing of this landmark legislation set the stage for the coming decades of environmental protections. Prior to 1965, few environmental organizations existed and even fewer environmental laws had been passed. But, these women led a grassroots environmental movement — during an age where a woman’s word was undervalued, especially in government.

This was the first of many milestones Save The Bay achieved. A few years after its establishment, the BCDC became a permanent regulatory agency empowered to permit Bayfill and require public access to the shoreline.

Senator Petris among others with Governor Reagan at the signing ceremony for the creation of BCDC.
Our founders and Senator Petris among others with Governor Reagan at the signing ceremony for the creation of BCDC.

Thanks to the courageous efforts led by Kay Kerr, Sylvia McLaughlin, and Esther Gulick, this 1960s projection illustration published in the Oakland Tribune, won’t become a reality. However, we must remain vigilant to ensure that our natural environment does not give way to urbanization, industrialization, and big business at home and around the globe.

Bay or River Image
In 1961 the Bay was projected by the Army Corps of Engineers to become a river by the year 2020, as illustrated by this graphic published in the Oakland Tribune in 1960.

Over a half century later, Save The Bay has continued to fight the good fight, educate and inspire the next generation of environmentalists, and remains dedicated to keeping the Bay healthy for all to enjoy for generations.

As they’ve inspired today’s generation of bay savers, the women working to protect our environment today inspire the young environmentalists of the future. Donna Ball, Save The Bay’s Restoration and Habitat Director, is one of those women encouraging tomorrow’s environmental solution developers (both girls and boys) to follow their dreams.

Despite advancements in the American environmental and women’s movements, we have yet to achieve gender equality in the sciences both internationally and here at home. We know of a remedy that may help close that gap: it takes is at least one ordinary individual with extraordinary ideas, courage, belief, and vision.

Will it be you?

Advice From a Female Scientist: Follow Your Dreams

Donna Ball
Donna Ball inspires us all as Save The Bay’s Habitat Restoration Director.

I grew up in an era when a college degree was considered a luxury and not a necessity for women and when it was just becoming acceptable for women to pursue careers in ‘male-dominated’ positions that required math and science. For example, my father refused to pay for a college education because I would ‘just get married and have a family anyway’ indicating that upper-level education for women was a poor investment.

I fulfilled the prophecy of getting married and having a family but always longed to go to college. When I was in my early 40’s and my children were in high school I met with a college guidance counselor who recommended that I pursue a secretarial degree, an acceptable profession for a middle-aged woman. I had been out of school for over 20 years and it was intimidating to challenge him. Fortunately, I needed to take a remedial math class before I could take the entry-level math courses and I loved it. In fact, as I moved through college I found that I excelled in math and science courses. I became a little more forceful and determined and changed my major to Environmental Science in which I subsequently focused on studying estuaries and salt marshes and earned both Bachelors and Masters Degrees, finishing at the age of 48.

Now, as a female science professional I love to mentor both young women and men and nothing excites me more than to see them challenge themselves and excel. At Save The Bay, I work with a team of young, strong scientists (both male and female) and I am proud of the work that they are doing to bring the science of tidal marsh restoration ecology and knowledge of San Francisco Bay to over 2,000 5th – 12th grade students annually who attend our education programs.

For those and all other students out there, to my staff, and to anyone out there interested in pursuing math and science careers (or anything you are passionate about) for that matter, I have the following advice:

Whether you are male or female, young or old, you must diligently chase your dreams. You must never give up on challenging yourself and being open to pursuing new dreams or changing directions. Identify and surround yourself with people who can help you succeed and who can push and encourage you. You must be persistent, curious, willing to work very hard, and stubborn enough not to be deterred despite any challenges that come your way – and you must believe in yourself when others do not. The road will definitely not be easy but the adventure and satisfaction of following your passion will be rewarding.

Donna continues to share her passion with Save The Bay staff, volunteers, and students. Watch this video of Donna talking about her career with the Girl Scouts: