Creating Community for Women in Parks and Recreation

Parks and recreation, like many professions, was once a male-dominated industry. While representation and diversity are increasing in the field, many women found themselves needing a space of their own—to collaborate, support, and learn from other women in parks, recreation, and leisure. To help us round out Women’s History Month, join us in conversation with Lakita Watson, NRPA Board Member and Executive Director of the Richland County Recreation Commission (South Carolina), as she discusses Women in Parks and Recreation and the unique challenges and amazing triumphs of women in the field. 

This talk is suitable for all learners, regardless of previous DEI knowledge.

By the end of this talk, presenters will have:  
-Discussed why they feel it is important for women to have their own space to create community.
-Spoken about the creation of the Women in Parks and Recreation, and its successes, challenges, and stories from the group.
-Highlighted what they see is necessary from the profession in continuing to support the advancement of women in parks and recreation. 

Lakita Watson, CPRP (she/her)

CEO

Women in Parks and Recreation

Lakita Watson is a Certified Parks and Recreation Professional with over 25 years of experience in organizational leadership, program development, and capital improvement project management.  She served as the Executive Director of the Richland County Recreation Commission from July 2018 until February 2022. Prior to the Commission, Lakita served as the director of parks and recreation for the city of Suffolk, Virginia from 2003 until 2018.  

Lakita is a graduate of Norfolk State University where she received her bachelor’s degree in Social Work. She is currently pursuing her master’s degree in Public Administration from Liberty University. She was inducted into the American Academy of Parks and Recreation Administration (AAPRA) in 2020. 

Committed to professional development and lifelong learning, Lakita actively teaches and mentors presenting at local, state, and national conferences. She also serves as a regent for the Revenue Management Development School and an instructor Director’s School. Lakita is the immediate Past President of the National Recreation and Parks Ethic Minority Society and serves on the American Academy of Parks and Recreation Administrator’s Justice Equity Diversity, and Inclusion Committee. In 2020, Lakita was elected to the Board of Directors for the National Recreation and Parks Association. She has served on the board for the National Association of County Parks and Recreation Officials since 2018. Lakita is a member of the GP Red Advisory Committee and was recently elected to the Board of Directors for the National Association of Park Foundations.

In 2019, Lakita founded the Women in Parks and Recreation (WIPAR) Facebook Group, which is committed to providing a positive platform and space for women in the field to collaborate, connect and support each other. In 2021, WIPAR was incorporated as a nonprofit organization with an online following of over 10,000 strong and growing every day! 

Shalini Mirpuri (she/her) (Moderator)

Senior Education Manager - Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

National Recreation and Parks Association

Shalini is the Senior Manager of Education - Diversity, Equity and Inclusion for NRPA. She is a passionate Educator who is focused on melding her love for parks with her commitment to social equity. Shalini believes that innovative education and inviting dialogue can build a shared investment in ensuring access to parks for everyone. She has been working on issues of equity for over 10 years in a variety of settings, including higher ed, government agencies, and nonprofit organizations. She is particularly passionate about the intersection of gender-based violence and racial equality. Shalini holds a Masters in Education and an Education Specialist degree in Counseling from the University of Florida. 

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