Lessons in leading change at Women in Forestry Virtual Summit 2023
By Maria Church
“You don’t have to be at the top of an organization to be leading change.”
This is a quote from Linda Coady, the new president and CEO of the B.C. Council of Forest Industries, reflecting on learnings from a recent project she co-led in her former role with the Pembina Institute, along with Globe Series president Elizabeth Shirt.
Shirt and Coady opened the Women in Forestry Virtual Summit this week with a discussion about takeaways from the project that uncovered barriers and collected stories and lessons from women leading the energy transition.
Shirt confided that the stories they collected were, “At times tough to hear, and I’m sure tougher to share.” The project confirmed women, especially Indigenous women, are more likely to be harassed than their male counterparts in industrial settings, but the more than 100 women who participated each shared a unique strategy for resilience to continue to lead in their careers.
Coady said forestry faces similar challenges to the energy industry with gender equality and participation, but that momentum is there with events like the summit bringing leaders – regardless of company seniority – together to learn and share.
The third annual virtual summit drew more than 800 participants from across the country, as well more than 20 other countries, all tuned in to see how the Canadian forest industry is working to break down barriers to embracing diversity.
Speakers tackled what it means to be an ally, Indigenous rights and participation, hiring strategies, and the role of the boss in making workplaces more inclusive. A panel of women in the industry shared their personal journeys to carve out a role in a male-dominated workplace.
Heather Boyd, executive director of the Forestry Sector Council in Nova Scotia, spoke to recruitment strategies and noted that at their recent forestry innovation event, 35 per cent of the participants were women – a marked uptick from the industry average most recently tallied in 2016 as 17 per cent.
“Inclusion is not just about checking boxes,” Boyd said. “It’s about ensuring all people in your workforce feel like they belong.” A diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) strategy is a good place to start, but that needs to be a working document, consistently reviewed and not shelved, she said.
The workplace environment was among the topics brought up during the panel discussion with women working in operations roles.
The panel, moderated by lumber trader Haleigh Callison, included Cascades Récupération+ regional operations manager Cynthia Larose, Ann-Marie Baron, OH&S Manager for Lemare Group, and millwright and welder Lana Love.
Love, who recently became a field operator with Arbios Biotech, shared her experience when she started in trades, feeling the need to be one of the guys. “When my apprenticeship started, I think that some men saw it as a threat to their right to exist the way they had always been able to exist at work, and the often-misogynistic culture that they enjoyed at work,” Love said. Her reaction to their blame was to try and be seen as “one of them.”
“That changed when I became a became a supervisor. Creating a safe and inclusive workplace was really important for me, for all of my workers. Racist, sexist or otherwise offensive remarks were not allowed by anyone,” she said.
All of the sessions for the virtual event are now available on demand on our event page, each as an individual YouTube link by clicking on the title of the session.
Thanks to all our sponsors for making this free event possible!
Our gold sponsors: John Deere, Interfor, West Fraser, and Canfor.
And our bronze sponsors: Alberta Forest Products Association, Forestry Innovation Investment, FSC, GreenFirst Forest Products, Mosaic Forest Management, Resolute Forest Products, Sustainable Forestry Initiative, Woodtone, WorkSafeBC, and Forests Ontario.