VICTORIA, B.C. - Feb. 1, 2024 - Lacey Rose is an RPF in Ontario and was invited to the WFCA 2024 Annual Conference in Victoria on to speak about Women in Wood.
"We began in 2015 in Ontario. It started with about 10 women and grew from there. In 2017 it became more official, and has grown since. We found out there were more women in forestry than we initially believed, and now we've been going almost 10 years."
Rose said the sector is growing closer to gender parity, from less than 10 percent women to more than 20 percent, but parity is a long way off.
The loose knit organization has informal networking with a blog, events, preentations, swag, and conversations among members. "We hold camping weekends, social events, pub nights, picnics."
WIW is not registered, has no money and no staff. "We're not EDI experts or professionals. We don't collect data or research. We don't speak for all women, and we don't solve larger problems. We are a community of support for each other."
Empowerment of women in the group is an underlying purpose, making women foresters visible to mentor-worthy students. "We want to provide a safe space for asking questions and building relationships."
The WIW women are available for information sharing, job posts and searches. "We have greater conversations around equity, and we act as reminders of the distance to go for women to achieve parity in the forestry industry. We hear both positive and negative stories, share emotional moments, joys and triumphs, and concerns. We take inquiries, and we have international reach."
Community support is useful for women in their early education phase of forestry practices. "We get good news stories and communicate strengths, like dealing with a forestry job and the likelihood of wildlife encounters." Rose mentioned her fear of bears and the help she received to stay in the field and overcome such persistent concerns.
"It's a generational shift, and women network to get support to grow in the forestry industry." WIW isn't owned, there's no agenda, it's strictly grassroots. "We a share a sense of pride and community, and provide authentic member conversations. Women like to get along, men like to collaborate."
The WIW purpose is not without challenges. "We are running WIW as a team of two," which makes time a precious commodity. "We struggle with funding. There's a desire to do more, maximize inclusivity, push to broaden the scope, and keep relevant conversations in play.
"We would like to do more and spread it across Canada. We have very few naysayers. Women working in forestry is an adaptation, and we are willing to work on inclusivity. Perhaps we provide a template for other networks. We could push to broaden the scope. It is a question of relevance."
Rose observes the diversity in B.C. with a certain amount of admiration. "B.C. has a good deal higher level of women working in wood industries."
WIW advocates for women-oriented work gear, clothes, boots: "The gear all fits for men, but there is inequity for women outfitting for the job. It's changing, and women can equip themselves. Still, PPE hard to find, and field gear for women is more expensive, less available."
There are other challenges in bush work, such as privacy and logistics for women, diversified leadership, efforts to even out the playing field. Equity and safety for women in camp work has become a priority."
Rose sees generational differences, and has noticed the demographic in forestry employment is often men who are older. It is these men, she says, who have been standing up for women in the forestry sector.
"If you can see it, you can do it. Role models for women the industry now show the world that women are being elevated in the forestry business."
Lacey Rose, RPF