Opinion: Making forestry a female friendly sector
By Molly Hudson and Jimmie Hodgson
By Molly Hudson and Jimmie Hodgson
Like most resource sectors, forestry has long been seen as an industry staffed, led, and dominated by the culture of men. But it is changing.
The situation has been progressing thanks to the kinds of leadership we’ve seen over the past few decades that acknowledge the need to change the industry – the need to knock down barriers that impact different people in different ways. While this began with conversations of women with other women, it has grown to include everyone in the important efforts to make the sector a place where women do not have to face the gender-based challenges of the past.
We have seen our leaders and colleagues make real efforts to change their knowledge and understanding. Both of us have benefitted from confident female professionals teaching and guiding us directly – and demonstrating the kind of leadership required to build the culture and the workplace that is desired.
We’re dedicated to delivering this kind of leadership. Much of that comes down to demonstrating the way forward through how we do our work. Living Mosaic Forest Management’s mission in this area is all about working as your whole, authentic self.
There are a number of steps to working as your authentic self. First, as a woman, it is NOT about changing yourself or your actions to counter stereotypes or to try to fight them. It’s important to resist the feeling that you need to take on representing all women. Instead, be yourself.
The second part applies to women and men alike when encountering difficult circumstances like sexist remarks or gender-based discrimination. If the situation warrants and the opportunity exists, the most effective way to change people’s minds is to engage in a genuine conversation – be curious, patient and get to know them. When you share yourself in that situation, you can shift perspectives. Don’t let small issues become bigger by not setting boundaries.
There is a critical caveat to this – if anything becomes unsafe, escalate to your supervisor or the HR process. Everyone has the right to work safely, and that means psychological safety as well. Raising issues early – not being dismissive of even small incidents – is the path to follow.
For instance, a common challenge women can face in the old way of operating is being talked over in meetings. It’s something that can be difficult to navigate – especially in the meeting itself. Facing this, people should try to use their voices and set their boundaries because allowing people to talk over you, claim your work, or be dismissed will continue. Leaders have a major role in tackling this. They can call things out in a calm, rational way and set firm boundaries. Going forward, people will know to respect that boundary. A key tool is the meeting structure itself – having individual check-ins or roundtables gives everyone the floor and creates the space for all voices to be heard.
Women have an important role to play in the future of forestry. Mosaic is making genuine efforts to show this not just in our workplace, but by introducing our work and the potential of careers to young people. When we visit local schools and communities as part of the job, we know that we have the chance to show women as leaders. And when we take younger students out to the field to show them the working forest – what we are doing and who is doing it – we make sure they are meeting a diverse group of foresters who share their stories. It’s our goal that kids can see a path for everyone to a forestry career. It’s our hope that the path has become easier.
The company is also making efforts to foster diversity through our summer student and internship programs focused on women in trades and Indigenous people. These programs bring new voices and experience into our ranks, and that delivers a chance for learning on both sides.
It’s our responsibility today – as leaders and as team members – to step up and continue pushing for change and focusing on every aspect of the forest sector to ensure it is a place where everyone can be their authentic selves regardless of their identity.
Molly Hudson is Mosaic’s director, sustainability. A registered professional forester and registered professional biologist, she’s worked to deliver on forestry’s role in a climate-smart future and creating a diverse and equitable sector
As Mosaic’s senior manager, forestry operations, Jimmie Hodgson helps deliver the company’s reforestation, stand tending, survey monitoring, salvage operations, and fire hazard abatement programs