Josy Cardoso - Nat Hab Expedition Leader and sustainability advocate

Josy Cardoso – Expedition Leader + sustainability advocate

International Women’s Day, held each year on March 8, is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating women’s equality.

As tourism is widely considered to improve cultural understanding, introduce new economic opportunities and incentivize environmental conservation in local communities, the idea that gender equality is key to these successes is no great surprise.

And while UN Tourism’s Global Report on Women in Tourism found that women continue to make up the majority of the tourism workforce but remain “concentrated in low-level employment” and earn 14.7% less than men, it also determined that:

  • More women are challenging gender stereotypes and assuming roles once dominated by men such as tour guides.
  • Women around the world have developed collective community-based solutions to address the impacts of tourism.

In the name of equality and the continuation of challenging gender stereotypes for greater community growth, we’re featuring Nat Hab Expedition Leader Josy Cardoso, who works to actively encourage the people she guides to be more mindful of their responsibility to the planet. Josy also believes that tourism is central to the sustainability of the Galapagos, as she has seen the effect exploring the incredibly biodiverse region can have on travelers—and subsequently, on the local communities.

Q. Growing up, did you always want to work in tourism?

A. Definitely. I grew up in Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island, where 70% of the population works directly for tourism. Before graduating from high school I was very clear that I wanted to obtain my bachelor’s degree in hospitality and tourism at the university and become a naturalist guide for Galapagos National Park.

Apart from guiding, I also have a small hotel in Santa Cruz. For several years I have been a member of the board of directors of the Tourism Chamber. Therefore, tourism runs through my veins.

Q. How did you come to be a tour leader?

A. Before graduating from school and leaving for college, my mother sent my sister and me on a cruise around the Galapagos Islands. It was a magical week. The contact with nature, walking through the lava fields and swimming with sea lions made me fall in love with the place I was leaving. The naturalist guides were incredible—they shared their knowledge about the islands, the geology and evolution in a way that we could all understand, and they really enjoyed what they did.

From that moment I said to myself: I want to be an Expedition Leader and naturalist guide. Fifteen years of guiding later, I still enjoy this job as though it were my very first year.

Q. Can you share an example of a time when you saw tourism positively impacting your community?

A. Tourism in the Galapagos has definitely had a positive impact on the community. It has inspired young people to professionalize in tourism, it results in international donations for conservation projects, and it has inspired scholarships for students in the community.

Traveler interest in the destination also lends incredible value to our natural resources, which incentivizes everyone to prioritize environmentalism overall. One example is that fishermen here now understand that live sharks bring much more money than dead ones. That’s huge progress.

Q. What are some ways tourism can do better when it comes to partnering with your community?

A. I believe that all Galapagos tour operators, including those with boats, hotels, travel agencies and restaurants, should implement social responsibility programs to improve our own community. Also, more tour operators should buy local products to support our Galapagos companies and local producers.

Galapagos sea lion on the beach.

Q. One of the best parts of travel is that it allows people to connect in meaningful ways. Can you share a time when you’ve seen a meaningful connection take place between a resident and a traveler?

A. These moments occur very often in the Galapagos because so many of our residents work in tourism. After experiencing our natural wonders, visitors often return home and facilitate strategic alliances between foreign universities and our local institutions. Thus, scholarships for local people and donations are obtained for different conservation and social programs, all thanks to travelers’ interactions with the local people.

Q. What is one big challenge and one big success you’ve experienced in your career as an adventure leader? 

A. One of the great challenges undoubtedly has been to be able to stand out in a “macho,” male-dominated society. As a woman, you have to prove that you are able to accomplish the same things that they can, and you have to accomplish them much, much better than them as well. It’s incredible but true that in the 21st century, we still have to deal with machismo in many societies. But I have succeeded, and if I had to choose my career again I would do it again in a heartbeat.

One of my greatest achievements has been inspiring travelers to be more conscious of minimizing their impact on the areas they visit and encouraging them to consider the way we live and how we can reduce our impact in big ways with just small, daily actions, like using water bottles instead of plastic bottles; being more careful of what we eat or buy, etc.

Q. What are career goals you’ve set for yourself in 5 and 10 years?

A. In the next five years, I want to be leading expeditions in other destinations apart from Galapagos and Baja California. I will also obtain the National Association for Interpretation COACH certification and remain involved in projects that benefit the community.

In 10 years, I’ll have completed 25 years of leading trips, and my goal will be finding a balance between leading expeditions, having a family and doing all the other things that I love.

Q. What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

A. It means that women are finally being recognized as an important part of the pyramid, needed to make this world work. We respect that we all need to be part of the team in order to have a successful life, career and family—and women are the keystone in all this.

Learn more about Josy’s journey in our new video, Growing in the Galapagos!

Ready to explore the Enchanted Isles? Join Nat Hab in the Galapagos to discover its wonders for yourself. Josy might even be your guide!