One of our Arboricultural Officers, Anna, presented at the 2018 National Tree Officers Conference, talking about the role of women in arboriculture.

In this centenary year (since the end of World War One), she looked back at the Women’s Forestry Corps which was founded in 1917 to aid the war effort, giving women across the country their first experience of forestry. By 1918 there were over 400 women working as foresters in the UK.

Anna then talked through the female foresters of WW2, and the 6,000 ‘Lumber Jills’ from England Wales and Scotland that were in the Timber Corps in 1942. She also discussed her own experience of getting started in a career in arboriculture.

Barriers for women

As part of her presentation, Anna showed the results of a survey she put together on this topic.

Women from the UK industry, as well as from other countries (including Spain, Canada and Sweden), all said that they had experienced a number of gender-specific barriers in their work.

Survey results about women in arboriculture
Some of the issues survey respondents say they have faced in work

Anna said:

it’s so interesting to see the differences in these responses. Whilst women in the UK report experiencing belittlement for being female, or being perceived as a woman in a man’s post, the responses regarding childcare issues and promotions were more positive.

I would really hope that these low responses are because these women are mostly working at local authorities, where such discrimination is totally not accepted. I have certainly not experienced these specific barriers myself. Being able to work flexibly ensures I can do my work to the best of my ability.

How do we encourage younger women to join arboriculture?

Anna speaking at the National Tree Officers ConferenceOne of the key topics Anna discussed was how the industry can appear more accessible to younger women.

She talked about the calendars from certain arboricultural companies, which she says can make being a woman in this industry seem much less appealing than it should be.

Anna also raised a point about job descriptions – the majority of her respondents had found that experience in arboriculture was listed as ‘essential’ in their job descriptions.

To encourage more women to get into this industry, perhaps that is something we can revisit. If jobs at a certain level are open to people who maybe don’t have as much practical experience, but who can learn, that could create a more welcoming and diverse industry.

Many respondents also said that having more women in management roles, or leading the training courses, or speaking in schools would have a big impact on how young women view the industry.

Anna hopes that her speaking at this conference will encourage other women in her industry to feel confident, and raise the profile of women in arboriculture.

Women were there when the country was at crisis – why now are our numbers so low? If I can inspire just one young girl to think she can do it, then that’s enough for me. I’ve been so inspired by the women who responded to my survey, so I hope others will be, too.

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