The theme for this year’s International Women’s day, ‘Press for Progress’, has provided the impetus for New South Wales Forestry Corporation to move toward greater gender diversity in their organisation.
Women working out of the Eden Forestry office are representative of this continued press for change.
“There is a still a lot we could do, and there is a gender equality strategy in place, and teams working on that,” production leader Amba Addinsall said. “I think overall the Eden office is showcasing where we are at as an industry.”
The women occupy different roles including a seasonal firefighter, ecologist, production leader, harvest contractor and senior planner. They also undertake a diverse array of activities including threatened species survey-work, road traffic control, animal management, harvest planting, and mapping just to name a few.
Australian forestry is a traditionally male-dominated industry. According to the Forest Corporation of NSW Annual Report (2016-2017),18.7% of its workforce are women, a percentage that the Eden office, and the organisation more broadly are determined to see change.
Senior harvest planner Julia Clark has been with the organisation for ten years and in that time has seen a pleasing shift in both the numbers of women entering the workplace and attitudes toward women.
“When I first started there was no other female in the forest,” she said. “In the early days you had to fit in with the boys, now it is more equal.”
Ms Addinsall has been able to take advantage of flexible work hours to maintain her role in management, as well as a parent.
“Over the course of my employment I have had three children,” she said. “Being able to work part-time has made it work for me.”
Seasonal firefighter, Hayley Brightmore, said that flexible hours and working conditions are a good fit for women who wish to work and travel.
“I moved up here from working in Victoria. I love this area, but you can move anywhere with the job,’ she said.
Over the past year, women have formed 36.75% of the Forestry NSW corporations job applicant base, 35% of the interview base and 41% of the successful applicant base.
Seasonal firefighter Brianna Larkham said that social perceptions might be informing some women’s decisions not to apply for a job.
“I think it is societal stigma more than an actual problem,” she said. “Women aren’t applying for it because they don’t think they will get it.”
Ms Addinsall said that there is still work to be done mainly around gendered expectations.
“If you come to work with a clean pair of overalls it often means you will have to get used to being treated like a new starter, and that you don’t know what you are doing. There is a bit of that,” she said.
“I just wear dirty overalls,” harvest contractor and production assistant Sharon Fyffe said.
Shifting language and behaviours is also an important priority within the Eden office, and the organisation.
“This is an office and a workplace, you are getting paid, there are certain standards of language which we are starting to talk about and calling each other out on it,” Ms Addinsall said.
Men working for the organisation are also helping to change the office and workplace culture.
“The men in our organisation are really supportive, and want to help make change happen, Ms Addinsall said. “That the onus is not on us all the time is really important.”
“Everyone should be part of the same conversation,” Ms Clark said. “It should be less of an ‘us and them’ and more of an ‘all of us’. That is progress.”