‘Why can’t you do it?’: Q&A with Taylor Lumber’s Jocelyn Taylor Archibald
By Ellen Cools
Jocelyn Taylor Archibald is the office manager of Taylor Lumber Company Limited, based in Middle Musquodoboit, N.S. A fifth-generation family-run company, Taylor Lumber operates a sawmill, planer mill, retail store and biomass co-generation plant. Jocelyn got her start in the forestry sector by working in the woods and at the mill during the summers while attending university. In 2008, she graduated with a Bachelor’s of Commerce with a major in finance from Dalhousie University and has been working at Taylor Lumber ever since. Jocelyn is also the first female director and chair of the board of the Maritime Lumber Bureau. She has seen how the forestry sector has evolved, with more women becoming involved and taking on more prominent roles in the sector.
CFI: When did you begin your career in the forest products industry and how did you get your start?
I began my career in the forestry sector working on a silviculture crew as a summer job between one of my terms in university. When looking for a summer job, my father, Robert Taylor, who is the owner of Taylor Lumber, told me I could work on one of the silviculture crews in the woods, if I wanted. I worked in the woods with a bush saw doing silviculture treatment that summer. The next summer, I worked in the mill yard piling lumber.
When I decided I was going to take business as my university degree, I went through the Dalhousie University commerce program. It is a co-operative commerce program, which has scheduled work terms to allow students to gain work experience in their desired fields. When trying to decide what to do for my work term, I asked my father if I could come work at the mill. That would be when I started my career in the business side of the forestry sector and really started diving into it. From then on, I did my work terms with my father. I worked during school as well, changing my schedule so I could work one or two days a week. When I graduated in 2008, I came to work for my father full time.
CFI: What is it that you like the most about the industry?
There are a few different things. One thing I like is that it is constantly changing, whether it’s new environmental regulations, changes to treatments or how things are supposed to be done in the woods or in the mill. The business is changing, players are constantly changing, and the laws and regulations change depending on what is going on. We have our sawmill, planer mill, our retail store, and our biomass co-generation plant. So, the wide range of things that we cover keeps it very interesting. I love that constant change, and how the forest sector isn’t just the mill – we look at it as a whole, from the landowner through to your customer buying your material. For us, it’s more than just the sawmill.
One of the other things that I like most is that when I started going with my father to different meetings I was accepted very quickly. It felt like a huge family. It’s fairly close-knit, and Nova Scotia is fairly small, so everyone knows everyone else, or at least knows someone who knows someone. So, I could go to different meetings, and I’d be with the same people. You get to have a community, and I find that is an interesting facet in our forestry community here in Nova Scotia. I am a director with the Maritime Lumber Bureau, so I get to know and work with people from other forestry sectors outside of Nova Scotia as well.
CFI: Over the years, did you have any mentors who helped guide you?
There are a few in my immediate family, like my father, my mother, and my grandmother, Connie, was one. She and my grandfather started the business with my great-grandfather, before my father and his brothers took over. Connie was one of the first women I knew that worked in the industry. My father, Robert and mother, Eva, raised my siblings and I to know about the forest industry and they have constantly pushed me, never saying, “Oh, you’re a girl you shouldn’t do this.” Instead, my father would ask, “Well, why can’t you do it? If you have the brains to do it, do it.” So, that was the push. Our family never said, “Oh, you can’t do this because of X, Y, Z.” It was more, “Why can’t you do it?” So, I’d think, “If they think I can do it, why can’t I do it?” My mother also pushed me. She said, if you’re interested in it and you want to do it, go do it.
I currently serve as a director on the boards for Forest Nova Scotia, the Nova Scotia Human Resource Sector Council, the Nova Scotia Forestry Association, and Maritime Lumber Bureau, where I have had the privilege of being the first female director and chair of the board. The individuals with whom I serve on these boards have also mentored me in a different capacity, with regards to how to conduct myself in these positions, representing not just myself and my company, but the organizations.
CFI: How important do you think mentorship is to fostering more diversity and inclusion in the industry?
I think it’s very important. I think until someone can see what’s possible, they may hesitate to try it if they don’t have the right encouragement. And when women see that there’s more diversity in the sector, women are more likely to get involved in it, if they know it’s something they can do. I think it’s just breaking that barrier, and being a mentor really does help, because then someone’s there to ask, “Why can’t you do this?” I would never say to someone that they can’t do it or they shouldn’t be involved in the industry if they have an interest in it. To me, it’s open to anyone who wants to try it.
CFI: Do you find there are particular challenges or hurdles for women in our industry?
I have been in the industry now for a long time and I don’t know if it’s really that there is a barrier or it’s just a perceived barrier. In our local area, there aren’t a lot of women that you’ll see in the industry. It’s been perceived as a more male-dominated industry, but in the time since I began working at the mill, I’ve noticed more encouragement and entry of women into the sector, whether it’s as technicians, landowners, women in prominent positions in government and businesses or in family-owned businesses. Now, you see the diversity, with more women involved.
And it seems that as more women enter the sector, there are more coming. I didn’t experience any particular challenges as a woman, but I also had my father for support. So, whether that opened up doors for me that it might not have for someone else, I don’t know.
CFI: What advice do you have for women interested in a career in forestry, or women who are looking to advance to leadership positions in the industry?
One of the first things that comes to mind is, don’t be afraid to be the only woman in the room. That’s one thing that I have dealt with several times, whether it was taking courses or going to meetings ¬– being the only woman in the room and not being afraid to voice my opinion if I didn’t agree with everyone. I was there for a reason, whether it was to learn or to represent our company and bring forward my ideas. So, speak up, because your opinion might be the one thing that brings about a different perspective that others hadn’t thought of. That could really change what happens.
If you’re looking for leadership positions, you may have to work twice as hard to find the same recognition – sometimes it feels that way, anyways – but you’ve got to do it. I hope that there isn’t a glass ceiling that people can’t get passed. If you want the position, go for it. Don’t be afraid to do it. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for help, whether you’re a male or female.
This post is part of CFI, Pulp & Paper Canada and Canadian Biomass’ Women in Forestry series celebrating International Women’s Day on March 8. Find more content here and follow us on social media with the hashtags: #WomeninForestry, #IWD2021 and #ChooseToChallenge.