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Women can climb trees too!

Published: 07 March 2017

Traditionally forestry and forest-related jobs have always been in the domain of men. This is no longer the case. Women have been entering the work force for some time carrying out what is typically known as “a man’s job” and the share of women working in the forest and owning forests is increasing in many countries. Employers are recognizing that diversity of human resources generates creativity and innovation, and thus higher productivity and competitiveness.

This change reflects a general trend also in other jobs that were previously considered not adequate or too dangerous for women. Women have entered the labour market in large numbers and are making strides towards reaching men’s levels of participation in many previously male-dominated occupations. Gender equality, however, is far from being reached. Change in the forest sector to a more balanced gender composition of the work force has been slow. It is also impacted by a diminishing forest work force in general.

The good news is that the number of female students entering forest faculties is increasing. In Poland 27 % of graduating forestry students are female. Also the share of female forest owners is rising. In Sweden, for example, this number increased to about 37% after a reform of the inheritance law. A study on forest ownership among 12 member States of the UNECE has shown that the overall share of female forest ownership is 23.5 %.

Generally, the share of women in the forest sector is higher in jobs that require an academic background. And some women have succeeded in leading positions of forest organizations. Marta Gaworska, Chair of the Committee of Forests and the Forest Industry (COFFI) at the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, and Head of International Cooperation in the Directorate General of the State Forests says: “I am proud of being a forester, and to be able to serve the interest of forests both at the national and international level. I hope my message and example will reach many women, perhaps young women, who are considering different career paths. Forestry will not disappoint you. Yes, women can climb trees too!”

On 8 March, we are celebrating International Women’s Day under the theme "Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50-50 by 2030". The joint message from the Polish State Forests and the UNECE/FAO Forestry and Timber Section is that jobs in the forest domain need to become more inclusive for women but also greener to stimulate sustainable development, in particular in rural areas.

Multifunctional forestry provides for an active role of women in a professional environment. Given the focus on a participatory approach in the areas of sustainable development and forest management, women also have a role in representing local communities.  Evidence of this approach is found in the declarations and resolutions of the Ministerial Conferences on the Protection of Forests in Europe (MCPFE Helsinki - 1993, Lisbon - 1998).

This message will be further promoted during Las2017 (‘las’ means ‘forest’ in Polish) and the 4th European Forest Week from 9 to 13 October 2017 in Warsaw, hosted by the Ministry of Environment of the Republic of Poland. The official part of the meeting will consist of the joint sessions of the UNECE Committee on Forests and the Forest Industry (COFFI) and the FAO European Forestry Commission (EFC). Many special events organized for the European Forest Week will also offer an opportunity to discuss key topics on forests in more depth.

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The article was also published in Polish.

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