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On Change, Innovation and Leadership in the Forest Sector

Kathy Abusow is the President and CEO of the Sustainable Forestry Iniative Inc. Check out Kathy Abusow's TED Talk "The power of sustainable forests"


Congratulations to Lacey Rose and Jessica Kaknevicius for starting Women in Wood! I suppose great minds do think alike, several years ago the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) partnered with Habitat for Humanity for an SFI Women in Wood Build Day. It brought women together from across the forest sector to help build a Habitat for Humanity home for an Indigenous mother and child in Ottawa. I’m a strong believer in bringing people together to do good, build community, and increase awareness of all the amazing people – and women – in the forest sector.

As President and CEO of the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, Inc., a sustainability organization that stands for the future of forests, I am very supportive of initiatives that encourage women to enter the forest sector. It is critical that we recognize and maintain the environmental, economic and social benefits of the forest — and women have an important role to play in helping us accomplish this goal.

More than 25 years ago when I began working in the forest sector, it was not unusual for me to be the only woman in the room. The forest sector is the ultimate green sector, it is based on a renewable resource, and sustainable forest management builds trust, communities and sustains livelihoods. This makes it appealing to a wide group of people and I’m impressed with the increasing diversity I have seen in my career.

Women are increasingly enrolling in natural resource, environmental science and forestry degree programs. These women recognize that the forest sector is a fantastic place to work. Your office is often in the great outdoors and you get to breathe the clean air that our forests provide, be active, and enjoy our nation's rich biodiversity.

The forest sector includes professional foresters, wildlife biologists and ecologists, hydrologists, and harvesting professionals. They all work together to maintain conservation attributes and provide rural jobs while respecting community needs and ensuring a steady and sustainable flow of wood products.

The forest sector is also on the cutting edge of product innovation — from nanotechnology to tall wood buildings. We are embracing innovation and change because those of us who have been working in the forest sector for a long time understand that research and innovation are the future. Diversity is critical to innovation, so regardless of your gender, your cultural background, or your educational expertise, there is a great job waiting for you in the forest sector.

My 17-year-old daughter Nina is currently evaluating her educational and career options. What gets her most excited is hearing other young women describe their own educational and career paths. Having young, female role models is critical to attracting more women into the forest sector because the age and gender affiliation enables young women like Nina to imagine themselves in that role and gives them the confidence to believe they could do the job as well.

We might not realize it but every day and in every way we are all role models for someone else who is watching. Creating awareness will create change and it’s important we take the opportunity to tell the important story of diversity in the forest sector and act as role models for other young woman who may be evaluating whether the forest sector is for them.

You can lead from wherever you are. You can use your words, own your voice, and share your voice for good. Thanks Lacey and Jessica for taking the initiative and leading!

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