Over 5 years ago, we decided that it was time to bring women together to celebrate and elevate those working in, with and for the forest and to inspire the next generation of women to consider a place in the woods. At this time, gender was not really being discussed in the forest sector. While there was an overall understanding that there weren’t many females in the sector, it wasn’t something that was identified as an issue, nor were actions being taken to make any change.
Since then we have seen an uprising of gender diversity initiatives – from increased research in the topic, to actions to improve representation across the sector, to events celebrating women leading and entering their careers, to articles flooding the internet elevating women.
What we have loved the most about the Women in Wood (WIW) group, is the organic conversations that seem to take place on a daily basis between the 1,200+ members. It could be everything from asking for advice on outdoor gear to posting jobs to getting into a serious conversation around workplace ethics. We’ve also had the opportunity to share the stories of several women on our blog, meet many WIW in person at events, and see WIW across the country come together and plan their own get-togethers. We’ve also mailed out hundreds of t-shirts – and it always bring a smile to our face when we are out and about and see the shirts being worn with pride, by both women and men!
We get a lot of questions about what is next, where will we go from here. What many people might not understand is that this venture has really been a project of passion, driven by the time we have in the evenings and weekends to put towards the group. What has made it easier for us is the power of the network – that the women in the group have been the ones driving the conversations and finding the connections.
In my five years, I have seen quite a bit of change for myself. A career move, a house move, and now I am setting off on my next big adventure. I am not unlike many women these days, who have often thought and fretted about the impact that starting a family might have on their career. Will the time off cause me to be insignificant? Will I be able to return back at the same capacity and drive as when I left? Will I feel guilty about trying to balance a career and a family? What the women in wood community has done for me is show me that these fears are not just my own, and that many women have learned to balance and be leaders. I have been inspired by the photos of pregnant women walking through the bush, or women with young children strapped to them continuing to do their field work, or conversations around entrepreneurs having to return back shortly after because they were an integral part of their business. I have even had deep conversations with women in wood who have been in the sector for decades, telling me that “that they made it work”. There might not be a straight-line path for anyone, but at least I know I have a network of women to go to for insight. More importantly, I am excited to raise a child knowing that there will not be a question of whether women can do the job, but simply why can’t they.
If I had three pieces of advice for any women who works in, with and for the words they would be:
You are the driver of your own career. Don’t wait for someone else to decide where you should end up.
Speak up for yourself and find your voice.
Help others grow- share your experiences, advice, and insight but know that everyone also has their own path.
The last five years have been a bit of a whirlwind for me as well. While I’ve been fairly constant job and life-wise, I’ve been so fortunate to have had many opportunities to meet new networks, share stories and try new things. I’ve visited 7 new countries and had many memorable moments with my side-job as host for Mighty Jobs. This was a huge leap for me, as someone who feared getting lost forever on public transit and hated being on camera. I was also so grateful to have the opportunity to share stories about my career so far with members of the Institute of Chartered Foresters in Oxford in 2019, alongside 3 kick-ass women who I’m excited to see succeed in other parts of the world.
This experience caused me to reflect about some things I have learned so far. Mainly, these would include:
Try to say YES to opportunities that come your way. They’ll cause more to follow! But, also be conscious of taking on too much at once.
If we find ourselves asking – “can I do this?”, the answer is always yes.
Use your uniqueness as an advantage.
Above all, I have derived so much happiness and inspiration from seeing the WIW network grow. It adds fuel to my fire by seeing the success of women in the group. There are often moments or conversations that will cause Jess and I to chat about how our hearts are exploding. I’m thankful for Jess, and for WIW.
So, where do we go from here?
The best part is that things are now tending to happen on their own with just a bit of inspiration, and will continue to do so without us having to initiate. But, we know we can do more with the support of our network. This year, we’re partnering with the CIF for an e-lecture series, so stay tuned for more on that! Just last week a mentor/mentee matchup event happened in Pembroke, Ontario that we hope will serve as inspiration for other such events across the country. There’s even hopes for a “learn to timbersports” event.
The best part is that looking ahead, the work to be done is not about fighting for equality as much as it is about celebrating diversity, and continuing to support growth for all women in, with and for the woods.