On International Women’s day, I’d like to share a little about my career in arboriculture and how I came to work in a previously male dominated industry, and hopefully inspire others to look towards arboriculture as a potential career.
The occupational sphere of Trees and Development was not something ever introduced to me at school, and in my younger life there was no one who might have guided me in that direction – arboriculture is something I eventually discovered by myself.
A twist of fate you might say landed me with the opportunity to spend each day assessing trees in order to help retain and protect them while development took place in their proximity. I fell in love with the work, embraced it almost obsessively, and have pursued it professionally for almost 30 years now; against all odds.
There’s no doubt making one’s way as a woman in a male-dominated industry throws up road-blocks, frustrations, and distinct challenges but I can honestly say that through it all, my work with trees, alongside fellow professionals in design, civil engineering, planning, and ecology has never for a moment failed to inspire and reward me.
To any woman who has formed an impression of arboriculture that makes her doubt there’s a role for her within it, I say please forget the chainsaws and wood chippers, forget the climbing kit. You don’t have to climb. The intricacies of a two-stroke engine can remain a mystery. There are many, many aspects of arboriculture a woman can make her own – analysis and assessment, understanding the biology of trees, negotiation, mediation, confident reporting, mentoring, measured debate, innovation, networking, team building, collaborative working…I could go on. The daily opportunities to develop a wealth of skills and imbue them with female intelligence will keep you vital.
For women, arboriculture is still a road less travelled and unfortunately, there are many other occupational fields where we are still significantly under-represented. So today of all days, I want to encourage women everywhere to challenge their assumptions about their ‘fit’ in any industry and simply do as I did. Get involved because you want to and use your invaluable skillset to make your work decisively and unapologetically your own.