What you’ll find as a common thread in the environmental industry is a lack of women adequately represented in leadership roles. The tide, however, is shifting, and the Women In Green Forum, created seven years ago by Founder Jaime Nack is a testament to this.

While the Forum may have started out years ago as an opportunity to highlight women in the industry, it has grown into something much more. At the most recent event, held in Los Angeles, attendees ranged from companies in the Fortune 500 all the way to students and every professional level in between. It was the proverbial who’s who of sustainability and activism in a very casual atmosphere, clearly designed to break down barriers and promote long-term relationship building.

This year’s event reminded me of the early Twitter days when it was amazingly easy to reach out to CEOs or other thought leaders and engage them directly. Jaime Nack’s Forum is having the same effect in the sustainability industry for women by encouraging speakers to share stories as opposed to giving pitches (sorry, no slideshows allowed, folks).

I witnessed speaker after speaker continue their conversations offstage with anyone who reached out. You could see them gathering in small circles all around the room, sharing advice, trading notes on grant opportunities, and offering strategies to help each other’s ventures. It was a sea of professional women with their guards totally down, eager to make a difference. A very uplifting sight to see and experience because it really was business as unusual for any industry, which also just happened to be the Forum’s theme this year.

For the Forum, the intention of highlighting women in sustainability has unintentionally created an impressive list of over 300+ female speakers that other events now use as a key resource tool. What’s more, after encouraging mentorships and scholarships over the years, this conference has given rise to a “Youth Mentorship Program,” which connects seasoned environmental professionals directly with students. What started as a more localized event has grown to attract attendees from all over the world who are now inquiring as to how they can replicate the Forum in their own respective areas.

As the event wrapped up, it was clear that this new way of thinking, “business as (un)usual,” had produced a highly collaborative environment that resonated with women. You could almost see all the little seeds being planted. The anticipation of what may pop up next is quite exciting.