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Voices-Women in the Pallet Industry

March is Women’s History Month and we at Nature’s Packaging are here for it. All of the blog posts for this month were about women and their impact on forestry, forest products, and the pallet industry. For our final post of this month, we asked women in the pallet community one question:

How have women changed the pallet industry?

 

Su So-Longman – President

Pallet Central Enterprises

When I started Pallet Central Enterprises 17 years ago, it was rare to find women in a leadership role in this industry. I found such statistics exciting since I have always lived to compete and thrive in challenging circumstances.

Women have advanced light years since that beginning. Now, it is not uncommon to see some of the best pallet companies in the US, owned and operated by women. They are also plant managers, purchasing directors, and account managers among other roles. That is a testament to how involved women have become in every aspect of the pallet industry.

Women certainly possess the more traditional leadership skills, but they also bring a depth of understanding, flexibility, and true work ethic to the workplace. This is demonstrated in the loyalty and longevity of employee relationships, as well as the connections with customers and vendors.

I am proud to say that women are 80% of my in-office work family at Pallet Central Enterprises, and my management team consists of 90% women who oversee daily operations, including sales and accounting. Our national sales manager, who is also a woman, is on the board of the NWPCA.

Women of pallet industry are here to stay, and the industry is definitely better for it.


Julie DeRoush – National Director of Supply Chain

TRI-Pac North America

Women have brought a fresh perspective to the pallet industry through forward thinking and personal connection to customers. Women are largely having the day-to-day conversations with the customer base and have played an integral role in identifying and introducing innovative technology and tools that support the internal expediency and “Just-In-Time” service that customers are demanding. We are calculated risk takers and problem solvers that balance the chaos this industry tends to thrive in.


Beatrice Vasquez – President

Oxnard Pallet Company

Some strengths women have is the ability to multi-task effectively, demonstrate patience, show compassion/respect/flexibility with others (especially employees), and maintain good organizational skills. I believe our attention to detail along with all these strengths have placed an important and vital role for us within the pallet industry in helping to surge forward for more growth potential!


Kristin Kopp – VP of Communications and Marketing

48 Forty Solutions

What I have noticed from women in the pallet industry who I have had the pleasure of working with, is that they bring a sense of humility and thoughtfulness to the table. There are a lot of broader and deeper discussions taking place that might not have otherwise. Pushing the why of initiatives and results to discern “how we got here” rather than just focusing on the numbers themselves, is something I enjoy seeing. What I love most about women in this industry is there is a toughness and resilience which I think a predominantly male industry both appreciate and respect. This respect encourages pallet businesses to hire more women, softening the edges of their businesses a bit, and being open to a whole different style of thinking, feeling, discussing and problem-solving.


Carolyn Beach – Chairwoman of the NWPCA Board

Co-Owner Westside Pallets

Women in the industry are much more present.  More women are not only finding careers in the pallet industry and other industries associated with pallets, but they are more involved in the associations such as NWPCA and WPA.  It’s encouraging that it is common to see women in the pallet industry.

 

We close the month of March celebrating Women’s History and their contribution to this industry. We look forward to the continuation of women taking leadership roles in all of the trade associations (NWPCA, WPA, CWPCA) affiliated with the pallet industry.

 

Woman in a warehouse standing next to pallets and racks

Perspectives-Women in the Pallet Industry

At Nature’s Packaging we have been celebrating this March as Women’s History Month. Women provide so many unique perspectives and skills in this industry that it is absolutely true to say that we would not be where we are as a group, were it not for the wonderful women of the pallet industry.

An interesting aspect of the pallet industry is that it is still pre-dominantly comprised of family businesses.  Of course, we have witnessed many instances of consolidation in the past year, but the playbook in consolidation seems to be to keep the core in place and add in resources where needed.

Family businesses involve women in many parts of the enterprise. These duties include everything from ownership, to administration, to operations, to working the repair line. In all respects, the acumen, knowledge, and experience that women bring to the business and to this industry enriches the relationships with peers, customers, and partners alike.

It has been referenced by others in the pallet industry that women bring a more developed sense of emotional intelligence (EQ) to their relationships. That observation may be anecdotal, but it can also be true. The bottom line is that women are just as good or better in a lot of areas of business, including running them.

The National Wooden Pallet and Container Association (NWPCA) elected its first woman chairperson in 1998 (Susan Larson). It has been 24 years, but Carolyn Beach now steps into the role of Chair of the Board of Directors. Her voice and perspective are a welcome addition to the leadership roles that women are stepping into more and more within this industry. The Western Pallet Association (WPA) and the Canadian Wooden Pallet and Container Association (CWPCA) also include women in various committee and leadership positions as well.

However, as an industry we need to do more. There have been events, both online and in-person, where women have an opportunity to come together to discuss their experiences in the industry. How do we, as an industry altogether, recruit more women into the leadership roles that are so important to our associations?

Perhaps there should be more circumstances where women can come together, whether it be a live event for women only at one of our national conferences, or a regular meeting group (online or in-person). These types of regular activities will surely advance the industry by letting women know that their voices are integral to the fabric of our collective success. We have nothing to lose and everything to gain by taking action.

Today I Learned

#TIL-Women’s History Month and The Forest Service

In March, we celebrate Women’s History Month. Here at Nature’s Packaging that means that each blog post this month will focus on the vital part that women play in forestry, and the forest products industries.

The first women to work in the U.S Forest Service began in the early 20th century. During the beginning, their jobs were restricted to what were viewed as gender appropriate duties for women in the workplace. Yet, these early pioneers laid the groundwork and proved time and again that their abilities far exceeded their roles as they broke existing barriers to take on new fields and responsibilities within the service.

In this Nature’s Packaging post, we will focus on the history of women employed at the U.S. Forest Service and learn how their hard work and dedication built the infrastructure of the U.S. Forest Service and slowly expanded to field services and leadership roles.

Early Pioneer-Helen Stockbridge

In the early years of the 20th century women were the clerks, secretaries, librarians, educators and research workers in the forest service. It is in these types of duties that women began building the administrative infrastructure of the Forest Service. Their work streamlined processes, expanded documentation and history of various forest regions. As educators, they informed the public about the forest service and taught conservation practices to schools and clubs. The researchers were tasked with cataloging new findings and interpreting data coming in from the field through reports and actual samples.

During her time at the Forest Service, Helen Stockbridge served as the Director of the Forest Service Library from 1904 to 1933. As director, she expanded the forest service resource library more than 4X its initial size of 3,000 items to hold a wide array of over 13,000 different materials. She accumulated a diverse base of literature and created 137 branch libraries in all the forest supervisor offices throughout the U.S.

The National Forest Service Library

Not merely a collector and curator, Helen Stockbridge also wrote, reviewed, and edited many bibliographies, field manuals, and research documents. Her important perspective as a woman in the writing of this material certainly factored into the decisions and actions on conservation taken by personnel out in the field and in leadership roles (who were in nearly all cases, men).

Now known as The National Forest Service Library, the department provides a wealth of knowledge and easy access to databases, bibliographies, and scientific research that members of the Forest Service use to analyze historical trends, do important research, and develop new forest product technologies.

Early Pioneer-Hallie M. Daggett

Hallie Daggett-Fire Lookout

While women were employed at the Forest Service since the early 20th century, they did not take on roles that involved field work. That all changed with Ms. Hallie Morse Daggett.

Field work in the Forest Service included jobs like fire lookout. This person is assigned to watch for wildfires and/or signs of wildfires in the many regional forest areas around the United States. They occupy a building known as a fire lookout tower. These towers are typically located on mountain summits to provide a proper vantage point over large areas. They are very often in remote areas of forest region that are difficult to get to and difficult to supply. The harsh weather, mountainous terrain, and remote isolation were all part of the assignment that the lookouts had to endure in order to carry out their duties.

In the early 20th century, the job of a fire lookout was thought only appropriate for men of the Forest Service. However, Hallie M. Daggett proved them all wrong.

Employed as the first female fire lookout, she took on the role and flourished. She started as a lookout in 1913 and was based in California within the Klamath National Forest, specifically at Eddy’s Gulch lookout station on Klamath Peak.

Eddy Gulch Lookout Station

Getting the job was no easy task and after much perseverance and persistence, the Forest Service opened the position to her as an experiment of sorts. This she knew as she pointedly remarked once in an interview, “…thanks to the liberal mindedness and courtesy of the officials in charge of our district, I was given the position of lookout…with a firm determination to make good, for I knew that the appointment of a woman was rather in the nature of an experiment, and naturally felt that there was a great deal due the men who had been willing to give me the chance”. Hallie M. Daggett went on to serve as a fire lookout for more than 14 seasons in the Klamath National Forest. She is the most famous female fire lookout in the history of the Forest Service. Her story and history broke the mold and inspired many women to seek out field work in the U.S. Forest Service

Women in Forestry-Milestones

  • 1913 – First Female Fire Lookout – Hallie M. Daggett
  • 1957 – First Female Forester hired – JoAnne G. McElfresh
  • 1979 – First District Ranger – Wendy Milner Herret
  • 1985 – First Forest Supervisor – Geri B. Larson
  • 1991 – First Director of a Forest Research Station – Barbara C. Weber
  • 2002 – First Chief Operating Officer – Sally Collins
  • 2007 – First Chief of the Forest Service – Abigail R. Kimball

All these firsts are important, these women and many others that work day-to-day in a diverse array of jobs deserve the acknowledgement and recognition for their invaluable contributions to the U.S.F.S., the forest sciences, and the industries that work with the Service.

To be sure, there is still more work to be done. These stories and milestones are just a small sampling of the stories of women in the Forest Service. A project started by Dr. Rachel Kline, a USFS historian, called HerStory at the United States Forest Service is designed to commemorate and recover the history of women in the Service. The project is focused on providing an oral history and perspective through recorded interviews with women who have served in the Service, and women who are currently working in Service. Please check out the interviews and great stories and help us at Nature’s Packaging to celebrate women this March in Women’s History Month.

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