Women are an integral part of the forest and forest products eco-system. Their impact in every area, from science to recreation, to corporate and government, has propelled the forest and wood industries to new places and perspectives.
In this post we celebrate Women’s History Month in March, Nature’s Packaging has reached out to the Women In Wood Network to learn more about their history, why they came together and what the future holds for women in wood.
Women in Wood (WIW) is a network for women who work in, with and for the woods. It brings together passionate women from around the world to share their love for forests. Through a private Facebook group, Twitter, Instagram, our website, blog, newsletter, and LinkedIn group, it helps women find mentors, seek career advice, and meet other passionate women in the forest sector.
We met because, at the time – more than 10 years ago – we were often among the only young women at forestry events and conferences. We joke that we were united by never having to wait in line for the bathroom.
For years, we talked about starting a “rebuttal to the old boys club” and decided to make it official in 2016 by creating a private Facebook group for women we knew in the forest sector.
Although we both have had excellent and encouraging male colleagues, we recognized that there was definitely room for more women around the table. At that time, we added the 20 or so women we knew, and it just started growing.
The group now has 2,200 women from all over the world. It turned out that there was a gap to be filled, and women really appreciated having a safe space to go to for support and comradery.
*Please note-the Facebook group is reserved for women only, but the rest of their social media is open to all.
Our objectives are:
1. Build a community of women who work with, in and for the woods. This happens mostly in the private Facebook group. Not a day goes by without several posts from women sharing job opportunities, asking for advice or encouraging one another. We have also had many events – both in person, and more recently, virtual – for men and women to network and share stories.
2. Encourage women to pursue careers in the forest, wood and related sectors. Our blog and social media have featured many inspiring Women in Wood over the years – from the first female forester in Ontario to students about to the enter the field. Many students in the group report that seeing the success of and getting insight from women already in the sector has encouraged them. We even had an event sound technician’s young daughter who listened in at a panel event follow up with one of the panelists about how to pursue a career in forestry!
3. Help Women in Wood succeed in their career goals by collaborating for success, sharing information, improving skills, and navigating the workplace. This also happens through lots of sharing within the group, and we have had some skill-building webinars recently, delivered to WIW by other WIW. It’s really something to see a WIW pose a question, for example, about how or if to negotiate a salary, and see more than 50 other women respond with their experience and advice. That’s the power of a network!
During COVID, we’ve had several virtual get-togethers, and a few learning webinars – preparing for interviews, for example. We’ve also been having WIW Chats on our Insta channel, giving insight into the roles and pathways of various WIW. We are grateful to have had many opportunities to speak to groups and at events about the evolution of WIW. The conversations that follow are always rewarding.
We’re seeing more and more women in leadership in the forest sector, but there’s definitely still progress to be made. One of the most powerful ways to inspire women is to have other women who are in leadership share their stories and advice on how to work up to leadership positions. When you see women leading, it inspires you.
We don’t have a formal mentorship program, but mentor/mentee relationships have developed organically through the relationships built in the group. There’s a good mix of women new to the sector, middle-career, late career and retirees. It can mean so much to just have someone to chat with who may have had a similar experience as you, but is on the other end and can offer you what they learned.
Lately, many forestry and related programs (degree and technical) are reporting impressive numbers, with great representation from women. This is quite a shift from even 15 years ago.
The key will be ensuring these women successfully navigate getting their first jobs and finding employers who will continue to support them early in their careers. A challenge many WIW report is “falling behind” their male counterparts when they take time off to have a family or not being given the same training or growth opportunities.
We are seeing many more women as foresters, technicians and other woodland roles, but still limited representation in mills, trucking and logging. There also seems to be a lot of variance geographically, and some companies have made major strides to encourage and successfully recruit women in the mill environment.
We wanted a logo that was fun but powerful. We really left it to our graphic designer to come up with what would represent WIW, but hoped to have an image that would empower women and rally women together.
We think we have achieved that, as our logo is not only high in demand (our t-shirt sales speak for themselves!) but also well recognized. We can’t tell you how many times we have gone to events (pre-covid) and see women wearing the shirt with pride. It does exactly what we had hoped for – bring women together.
*Answers written by Lacey Rose and Jessica Kaknevicius
Veterans sometimes face impeccable difficulties in the job sector since many organizations and businesses view them as high risk employees. Yet lately, veterans as a workforce have been gaining positive attention and are even sought after in government sectors because of their work ethics, skills, and discipline. The USDA is one of the government sectors that puts a lot of emphasis on finding job placements for veterans and it is currently estimated that they make up for about 12 percent of the Forest Service workforce.
This employment method consists of a two-part program that veterans can join to improve their chances of getting job opportunities in the Forest Service.
Why the Forest Service workforce is perfect for veterans
Forest Service work is often considered a dirty job, however, it is purpose driven. Many of the jobs are for trail maintenance and improvements, watershed protections, biomass removal to prevent wildfires, and infrastructure improvements. Forest work has a lot to do with safety and security and veterans are sought after in this particular sector due to their extensive experience in survival training, combat training, ethics, discipline, and security. In effect, it appears that military training makes them ideal candidates to serve and protect national parks and forests.
Who funds it?
The Forest Service has formed a partnership with the California Conservation Corps. As of June 2017, they have raised $20 million dollars which would make available 4,000 jobs to veterans and young people. Their goal, however, is to invest $40 million by the end of the year to create 11,000 jobs total. They view the Wildland Firefighter Apprenticeship Program as a win-win because both veterans and natural forests benefit from these programs. Veterans have access to good career opportunities with benefits. The Forest Service benefits because they have access to a workforce with training and experience that could be used to enhance the safety and preservation of national parks and forests.
The North American forest industry works arduously to protect our forests and ensure that each year, more trees are planted than are harvested. Maintaining the safety of national parks and protecting watersheds are key to preserving national parks and trails. Nature’s Packaging is committed to North American forest sustainability so that forests continue to be safely explored and enjoyed.