Women who work in, with and for the woods
By Tamar Atik
May 11, 2017 – Although sometimes the forest sector still seems like a man’s world, there have been powerful and inspiring women paving the way for several decades, and there is room for more. Women in Wood (WIW) was started in 2015 as a way of bringing together women in the forest, office, woodshop and elsewhere in the sector, to learn from each other.
Women in Wood officially started with the creation of a private Facebook group. We had joked about starting an official “club” for women in forestry for a few years before this, since we identified ourselves as a minority when we met up at forestry events. Our group was meant to grow connections with other women in the forest sector in Ontario, foster relationships, seek advice and share experiences. Over the past two years, this network has grown to be Canada-wide with almost 200 members, and certainly surpassed our expectations of the benefits to be gained from building a community. We are so encouraged to see the members of the group initiating discussions, meeting mentors, sharing employment opportunities and organizing activities in their areas.
Womeninwood.ca was launched in February of this year, around the same time as we started a Twitter account. With these developments, we defined some objectives for WIW: build a community of women who work in, with and for the woods; encourage women to pursue careers in the forest, wood and related sectors; and help Women in Wood succeed in their career goals by collaborating for success, sharing information, improving skills and navigating the workplace. We hope to achieve these objectives by continuing to grow our network and encourage mentoring, using social media as an outreach opportunity to women considering a career in the forest sector, and by hosting events that focus on skills and information women in the sector identify as needing.
But why are we doing all this? It’s no secret that there’s a gender imbalance in the forest sector. There is impressive enrollment by women in many forest-related programs, yet recent research shows that women only have an 18.4 per cent share of the forestry and logging industry in Canada (see the WIW blog for more). These statistics are similar in other forest related fields such as woodworking. The ratio of women around the table at the management, corporate and board level is even more dismal.
We believe the forest sector is an amazing place to make a career for yourself – no matter your gender. The forestry community we are honoured to be surrounded by in our day jobs is like no other: passionate people carefully managing and sustainably utilizing our only renewable, natural resource. Given the looming workforce shortage, there will be plenty of upcoming opportunities to be excited about. We hope to encourage more women to join us, and help each other succeed.
You can help with this! Identify women in your workplace and take the time to teach them the skills they need to be on equal footing as their male co-workers. Well-meaning mentors often encourage women to emphasize their soft skills, which leaves them lagging behind in business, financial and the technical know-how they need to advance in their careers. Encourage them to be confident, but give them a leg-up in becoming knowledgeable enough to be.
If you are a woman reading this article, please join our network, and reach out on how you can get involved: by planning an event, writing a guest blog post, or mentoring a WIW new to the sector. Share a photo on social media of you in your element and tag with #womeninwood to inspire other WIW across the county.
If you see potential for your company to increase diversity in your workforce, drop us a line. We are looking for partners and supporters to help us spread the word that there is a place for everyone in Canada’s forest sector.
Lacey Rose, RPF, and Jessica Kaknevicius, MFC, are the women behind www.womeninwood.ca