In the late nineties, I was a young woman entering the forest industry in BC—a workforce with very few women. It seemed, at that time, that women in forestry were starting to be recognized.
Forestry was still a man’s world. Typically, I would go out in field camps in the bush, and there would be one woman for every 15 to 20 guys. Unless there were another lady on site, I would often have to share a room with a guy—not always even someone from my crew, sometimes a stranger from another crew. Bathrooms and showers were designed for men and shared use. Often I had to use them at the same time as the men. Sometimes this resulted in very awkward situations – there was just no expectation that there would be a woman on-site and no provision made for our comfort or privacy.
“We have finally entered an era where women in the forestry sector have an equal voice and can be heard above that old mentality that women don’t belong here.”
During this same time, I learned a bunch from some very experienced people who were accepting towards women entering forestry, and I progressed very quickly in my consulting work. Within a couple of years, I managed my own project with a crew made up mostly of men. It was a challenge to gain respect from men who were twice my age. I would often hear things like, “I am not listening to a woman,” or, “You’re just a woman—you don’t know what you’re talking about.” But I stood my ground, and eventually, I gained respect from those same people.
Moving through time, I have seen the gender ratio change. Every year a few more ladies have entered the forestry world. Now, I sit here in my office at Millar Western, and I look around with pride as I see that we have almost an even split between men and women in our Woodlands department.