Case study - Katie Miller, ClientEarth

"One time I was sitting round a boardroom table with about 20 people and we were introducing ourselves. When it came to my turn the chair said, 'well, you're the only one that looks like you could be Katie Miller'. I was the only woman there." Katie Miller, who for the past five years has been working on the Sustainable Seafood Coalition for ClientEarth, is able to see the funny side of her early encounters in the seafood industry.

Katie's keen intelligence and enthusiasm for her work have seen her move up quickly through the industry, although there was a time as a young girl when her current role seemed very unlikely, "I really hated the smell and taste of fish! (and my mum, still to this day, can't believe the path I have taken)."

It was when studying for a degree in zoology that Katie found she had a particular interest in the marine and freshwater modules, and after her graduation she became a professional scuba diver (running her own dive centre in Zanzibar). However, a life of perfect white sandy beaches and palm trees was not for her. Following the completion of her MSc in Conservation and a brief stint working for the Department for International Development, she then began working with NGOs on seafood sustainability, leading to her current role working for ClientEarth.

Katie can't disguise her passion for her work and the opportunity it gives her to help instigate change on a global scale "The exciting thing about working with the seafood supply chain is an opportunity to make real change. When I worked in the scuba diving industry you could only ever make change on a small-scale, or at an individual level, by teaching and inspiring other divers about how incredible the sea life is. When you work with businesses that rely on the sea for a sustainable resource, you can improve the health of our seas on a much broader scale."

Her enthusiasm for the seafood industry is as infectious as her vision is compelling, "I love sharing the story of what the UK is doing towards seafood sustainability with stakeholders across the world. It's a fun and diverse industry, and now I'm in it, I love it."
But what are Katie's hopes for the future of the seafood industry?

"To live in a world where consumers don't need to worry about whether the fish they want to eat is sustainable or not, because the industry has made responsible choices on their behalf."

We also spoke to Katie about women in the seafood industry, and here are her thoughts on the subject.

  1. Could you describe the industry when you first entered it - were there many (if any) women - and also could you describe some of the changes you have seen in the industry since you have entered it.
    Working in conservation, you find there is a bit of a skew towards women in the sector. So it was actually quite a nice change to have more balance when I entered the world of seafood. I met some very brilliant people along the way - both men and women - who have motivated and inspired me. There is definitely an imbalance in the seafood sector but it's certainly not only a man's world, and I've never had the impression anyone thinks I shouldn't be there because I'm a woman. 
  2. Do you know of any other women who work in a similar role to you, and if not, do you think there is a reason for this?
    Yes e.g. Emily Howgate of IPLNF.
  3. Did you ever have any doubts or fears about entering this industry and do you feel it is an industry that is adaptable and open to change?
    No! I was excited to join an industry that is so motivated and engaged, and there's nothing I like more than disrupting the stereotype of this male-centric sector.
  4. What are the biggest challenges of working in the seafood industry from a personal and professional point of view?
    There are lots of challenges - the diversity of species, the influence and habits of consumers, the economic incentives that drive business, the politics, the global nature of the commodity, the complexity of the fishy world both environmentally and socially (such as IUU and slave labour). On the up side I think we're at a turning point and there are so many groups trying to drive positive change on a local and global scale.
  5. What advice would you have for women who were thinking of a career in this industry?
    Go for it! Have a laugh, learn as much as you can, be confident in your skills and abilities. Be interested, intelligent and engaging; good relationships promote positive change.
  6. Finally, in reference to the furore surrounding the term 'fishermen' - do you think we need a gender-neutral term for fishermen?
    Yes, although I wouldn't consider it on a scale worthy of the term furore. If we want to invite and encourage women and younger generations into this sector, we should start by not using gender specific term for the industry.  We used to have firemen, and now we have fire fighters - why not do the same with fishing? 

Sustainable Seafood Coalition Coordinator at ClientEarth