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.
Please explain what Women In Wood is and how the group came about.
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.
Can you elaborate on the 3 objectives listed on the Women In Wood website and how they guide the group and members in networking and collaborating with each other?
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!
What are some of the recent events that Women In Wood have created or participated in that bring women in the industry together?
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.
What are the different ways that women are creating leadership roles for themselves in forest industries today?
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.
What is the role of a mentor in the Women In Wood network?
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.
What is the most common path today for women to enter the forest industry workforce? How has that changed over the last several years?
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.
Where did the idea of the Women In Wood logo origination from?
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