WinH Leadership Highlight: Kate Galer
Updated: Mar 23
For Women's History Month I wanted to highlight some of the women that make Women in Hort (WinH) a success. These are the unpaid heroes that dedicate their free time to creating programming, connecting us with colleagues, and being a resource for anyone that reaches out.
Kate Galer (KG) has been the Program Director for WinH for about five years. I first met Kate at a WinH volunteer event at Stoneleigh. I was impressed with her enthusiasm, ease with which she engaged with her peers, and especially loved how quick she was to laugh and make everyone around her smile. After a few months of seeing Kate at events, I asked if she would be interested in a board position. Thankfully, she accepted and has planned almost every event since! I hope Kate's spirited energy comes through in its full force in this Q&A!
Thank you, Kate for your many years of work for Women in Hort! Many connections have happened because of your work.
WinH: What is your current profession?
KG: I am currently transitioning between jobs! For many years I worked with children with autism and emotional support needs, in private practice and public school. In January of 2022, I stayed in education, but left public school to become an Outdoor Nature Preschool Teacher at the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education. My classroom was outdoors during the school year from September - June. While I loved being outside all the time and teaching and learning with my class and co-teacher, I decided to leave the Schuylkill Center and am embarking on a slightly new career path.
I start this week (March 6th) at Carousel Connections as an Employment Coach and Community Mentor for adults with disabilities. I have had a relationship as a volunteer with Carousel Connections and it is a great organization with an excellent model. I am looking forward to putting some of my horticultural and environmental knowledge and connections to use in my new position.
WinH: When did you start volunteering with WinH and what drew you to it?
KG: I think I started volunteering with WinH in 2018. My first volunteer event where I met you, Cat, and many other women in horticulture, was at Stoneleigh in Villanova, shortly after it opened to the public. We planted trees and did some good, hard work and I learned a few things from the other women that were there. It was a no judgement zone if I didn't know something. Everyone worked together, that's when I knew I wanted to be more involved as a volunteer.
WinH: Your professional training is in education how does that help as Program Director for WinH?
KG: For many years, I was a volunteer with The Friends of Linwood Park in Ardmore and coordinated events at the park and with neighborhood partners. There are many ways my background in education helped me in that role and my role with Women in Hort. As an educator, your job is to teach and never assume that a person has the knowledge that you have. When running events, especially with volunteers, I use that skill to make sure everyone is on the same page. It helps to be able to break tasks down in steps and scaffold depending on the individual and group.
As an educator, I use ALL my senses ALL the time it seems! To be aware of what is going on at an event is important. Planning is also an important skill that educators use and is important as a program coordinator. In general, educators interact with people of different ages and abilities, including families, colleagues, and a wide range of children. We interface, hopefully fluently, with many people throughout the day and week. I would also say that my time as an educator in public school, outdoor school, and with The Friends of Linwood Park has taught me to always plan for a variety of weather!! Be adaptable and flexible with plans.
WinH: What is one of your favorite memories with the WinH group?
KG: I have a couple. Definitely our first Summer Celebration at Linwood Park. It was a wonderful mix of people and I felt very proud to show off "my park" and see how everyone interacted with the park. Good raffles, good company.
Another favorite memory, programming-wise, came during the pandemic shut down when we did the Horticulture and Folklore Series on zoom. It was so interesting to organize that and be able to connect people from different parts of the country.
WinH: Who are some of your idols and why do you look up to them?
KG: Hmmm, I never really thought about that. I have always admired authors who are able to write about the natural world- incorporating science, non-fiction narratives, or fiction. My favorite book as a child was The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, which I think I have read at least twenty times. Other writers I love and wish I could write like are Helen Macdonald, Margaret Renkl, Barbara Kingsolver, Richard Louv, and Robin Wall Kimmerer.
WinH: Speaking of authors, what was the last book you read? What did you like or dislike about it?
KG: Ha, ha. I didn't read this question before I answered the above. The last book I completed was Braiding Sweetgrass. I liked it because Kimmerer is able to weave science and storytelling together while imparting an urgent message about climate change. I liked that despite the fact that she described a history of genocide and destruction of the earth, she is inspiring us to not lose hope and not become complacent. Everyone can do what they can do for the earth and for their own and their community's mental and physical health. Since I am an old lady at this point, I can tell myself to act on what I can. I am able to live with hope. I try to impart these ideas and ideals to my own adult (19, 22, 27) children and onto the children and people I teach. For them, it must seem so hopeless at times.
WinH: What is one issue that women still face in our society? What can we do to change that?
KG: The wage gap between men and women. I see it played out every day in the kinds of jobs women have and the pay that they get. Women and men in comparable job are still getting paid less, and women being ashamed, or not used to, sharing how much they earn. Women tend to devalue themselves and their skills and may need to be taught how to stand up and ask for the salary they deserve, a raise, or better benefits.
One way we can change that is to empower women to ask for what they need and deserve. To organize, either in unions or within an industry, and advocate for pay equity. We can leave jobs that aren't paying us equitably and find jobs that are (if we have that luxury). Even just talking amongst colleagues and friends helps lessen the taboo on talking about money.
"In 2022, women earned an average of 82% of what men earned, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of median hourly earnings of both full- and part-time workers. These results are similar to where the pay gap stood in 2002, when women earned 80% as much as men."
WinH: Are there any programs you are especially looking forward to on the WinH calendar this year?
KG: I would love to get a Retreat on the calendar. I also enjoy anything we do outside, from our volunteer day at Wyck to having a Happy Hour at the PHS Pop Up. Also, something we have been trying to get together for a long time and just haven't been able to - a salary roundtable. Maybe this is the year!!
WinH: What do you hope people get out of participating in WinH events?
KG: Camaraderie, inspiration, connections, knowledge, women lifting each other up. Fun!
Once again, many thanks to Kate for all the work she puts into making WinH events a success and for taking the time for this Q&A!