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How Canadian Women Are Putting Down Roots In The Forestry Industry

Meet three Canadian women sowing the seeds of a diverse—and sustainable—future

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For years, the forestry industry was traditionally a male dominated sector.  It was rare to see women in leadership roles. But now, women are dismantling the barriers that prevent or discourage women and under-represented people from entering and advancing in the industry. Finally, gender equality and diversity are growing in the forest products sector. Here’s how three women from across Canada are blazing a trail for others.

Marie-Noëlle Watts

General Manager at Dolbeau P&P, Resolute Forest Products, Dolbeau-Mistassini, Que.

In recent years, paper was expected to almost disappear but it’s very much alive and kicking. We often forget that throughout history, this medium has been vital for the dissemination of ideas in the form of newsprint. Over the centuries, paper has contributed tremendously to our progress, to citizens’ participation in democratic life, and to our culture and education.

The pulp and paper sector produces highly skilled, motivated and creative workers. It’s an honour and a privilege for me to be around them every day. Contrary to what you might think, the environment is inclusive and there’s plenty of room for women who are resourceful and eager to learn. Professionalism ultimately takes precedence over gender. I was one of the first female paper machine superintendents, then I became a production manager and now I’m the general manager of a paper mill. Every time I joined a new team, it took up to three months for the employees (who tended to be more surprised than resistant) to realize that I was all about doing my job and helping them do theirs, and that I was competent. At every step, I got the job done and was judged solely on my results.

Christine Leduc

Woodlands Operations Supervisor at EACOM Timber Corporation and Vice President of Forests Ontario, Timmins, Ont.

I was never really exposed to forestry as an urban Canadian kid. When I got to university, I loved taking classes related to geography, forestry and ecology. What really hooked me was the notion that most of Canada’s forests are public—therefore, they belong to Canadians and need to be managed with sustainability in mind. I thought that working directly for industry would be my best chance at having a positive influence.

When I started my career nine years ago, I often felt the heat of being the only woman in the room. But now, there are way more women in our industry and that rarely happens. We often rely on this statistic from 2016 that women represented 17 percent of the forestry labour force and I can’t wait to find out where we are at when this is updated. There are numerous established resources available to support women in forestry across Canada. There are still opportunities to improve gender equality in the industry, but the momentum is strong and time only drives more change.

Shelley Stewart

Owner of Bar S Ventures, Merritt, B.C.

I came into this industry quite naturally—my father is a logger and my family was raised on timber dollars. Logging is a lifestyle: It’s early mornings, long days and tiresome work. But if you’ve ever known a logger, you know that they are so proud of what they do. I take the greatest pride in being able to provide good, sustainable employment opportunities to over 30 families while supporting our local communities. I’m also extremely proud of the leaps and bounds women ahead of me have made in this industry. I’m very honoured to carry the same torch, leading the way for the next generation of women to follow.

I hope that those in the forestry sector work at capturing the interest of the next generation, and that we demonstrate that the sector has plenty of diverse employment opportunities. I’m intrigued and inspired by those who can see the forest for more than the trees.

Learn more about the Canadian forestry industry at forestryforthefuture.ca.

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