Christine Leduc is the Direcor of Public Affairs with EACOM Timber Corporation.
Women who work in, with, and for the woods. I know many such women: with Jess Kaknevicius and Lacey Rose, to start. Kudos to both for founding Women In Wood (WIW) and offering a platform where we can share information and experiences, as well as support each other as we work to achieve our collective goal of sustainable and healthy forests. Today, this group reaches hundreds of women, students and professionals, in Ontario and in Canada, who ask questions, exchange ideas or opportunities, and share stories. While there are still too few female professionals (Susan Gesner’s March blog tells us women have an 18.4% share of the Canadian forestry and logging industry), they are there, proud, ready for career growth, and becoming more visible.
When I started learning about forestry, I did not believe there could be a good reason to ‘cut down’ trees. One might assume that, being more nurturing by nature, women may be more inclined to take a precautionary approach to any natural resources management. In fact, I chose to study forest conservation believing that our Canadian forests needed to be saved. Then I learned that forestry as a profession inherently included the concept of forest conservation. My perspective began to shift as I started learning more. For example while taking the Ontario Tree Marker Training Program, I began to understand how thoughtful, scientific and comprehensive forest management in Canada really is. Today, I still want to save the forests, however I now wholeheartedly understand that it is through sustainable forest management of this renewable resource that we will keep our forests as forests and achieve forest conservation.
Yes, if done right, it’s absolutely okay to harvest and regenerate our forests -a necessity even. If I explain so to a crowd, are they more or less inclined to believe me because I am a woman? Will I be disadvantaged in this sector because I am a woman? These thoughts don’t impact me today, rather, I’m focused on the task at hand. Canada’s forests play a significant role in mitigating global climate change, and we do set a global example on forest conservation through responsible forest management. For this, we require a diverse workforce with a range of expertise. For a sector that faces recruitment challenges, there are many opportunities for Indigenous, Canadian, and New Canadian women.
During the June 2017 Saw Tech Log Expo, I attended a WIW event. It was powerful to hear about the challenges women in our sector have been facing over the past 30 years. It is difficult now to imagine being on the other end of a phone call where the caller is requesting ‘to speak to the male forester’, but such was the reality. For any professional who has faced this type of struggle, thank you for your perseverance. At the expo, we were joined by Lana Norton, the founder of Women of Powerline Technicians, who proves, through her own struggles, that this isn’t just about women in forestry but about women wanting to seize opportunities in fields where they had previously been absent.
Canadian industries are urged to recruit women at all levels of their organizations.Things have certainly changed, but we are not there quite yet. Some days I am the only woman in the room, other times I am one of many. If I stand out for being a woman, fine, but I will be successful because of my ideas. I’m very fortunate to have an employer who encourages me to be engaged and proactive. I’m excited about the possibilities for WIW, eager to learn more about how I can engage, benefit from and contribute. Whoever you work for, wherever you are, speak up, be heard. Voice your opinion, share your story, inspire others. You have the power.