Spotlight Story

26 April 2023

Crystal Díaz de Villegas: Advancing Latinos in Conservation Through Equity-Focused Action

Category: Spotlight Story

Crystal Díaz de Villegas knew early in her career she wanted to work for and with nonprofits. Drawn to conservation since high school, she had a clear goal in mind: work for a place with a mission that matters. More than that, Crystal has made it her personal mission to be a stepping stone for others to advance in a more equitable workplace.

Crystal grew up in a Cuban American household in urban Miami not knowing much about conservation and sustainability. It wasn’t until she reached high school that she found her love for nature. As a student at the Maritime and Science Technology Academy (MAST), Crystal worked on projects focusing on marine science. From there, she started her career in consulting and research within the nonprofit sector.

Today, she is the Director of Engagement and Efficiency for the Global Conservation Office at The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and is part of an employee resource group at TNC called Women in Nature (WIN), which she led for three years. The group works to advance gender equity issues and advocates for policy changes in the workplace, for example successfully advocating for an increase in parental leave from two to eight weeks. Even though this is not officially part of her day to day job, Crystal has kept pushing for changes to make the conservation movement an inviting and safe environment for all women.

She first heard about Hispanic Access Foundation from a colleague who encouraged her to join the organization as a board member.

“I was interested in joining a board that supported the Latino community. I work full-time in the conservation space, which I am passionate about. However, I also wanted to work in service of my identity and my community. I thought being a board member was a good fit for me.”

Crystal has been part of the Executive Board of Hispanic Access Foundation for over a year now.
“It has been a great experience. I have met people with diverse perspectives and backgrounds from around the world. I came to the board with an open mind and a commitment to support leadership and the team.”

One of the areas board members are committed to is being a champion for the organization, which translates into sharing the organization’s work through their networks and bringing more resources to the organization, including a personal financial commitment.

“I joined the monthly giving program, Elevación, to support and show I am committed to this organization, and I am trusting it with my resources. I believe in what they do. The best part is to see people in action and their passion and excitement about working with the Latino community. I am very humbled to be part of this group.”

For Crystal, a more equitable workplace means showing up in oppressive spaces to ensure adequate representation for the future.

“How you show up as a leader within the conservation movement is important. It has historically been very white and male-dominated. Representation matters a lot in conservation leadership, and that means making hiring decisions that reflect diversity of perspectives and experiences, and building an inclusive workplace where people feel safe to be themselves. It means working in partnership with communities, not as if you have all the answers. It is both how you approach the work and how you care for the people on your team.”

Hispanic Access is inspiring, training, and working with leaders like Crystal Díaz de Villegas, who have a stake in their community and have the drive for positive change. To help support and continue this work, please consider making a Charitable Donation

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Hispanic Access Foundation connects Latinos and others with partners and opportunities to improve lives and create an equitable society.

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