The gender balance has recently started to tip in British Columbia's forestry industry as more women occupy leadership positions and complete post-secondary studies in one of the province's key sectors.

Sally Aitken, associate dean of forestry at the University of British Columbia, has noticed the shift in the classroom.

Forty-seven per cent of undergraduate students and more than half of graduate students in the forest program are now women, and a third of the faculty are female, she told CBC Early Edition host Rick Cluff, .

"We see a big change in the numbers of women receiving professional degrees that relate to forestry," Aitken said. "We're now at about gender balance in terms of our educational programs."

Key roles

Forestry is a cornerstone to the province's economy, according to a recent report by the B.C. Council of Forest Industries and generates one out of every 17 jobs in the province.

And women across the province are filling those positions.

"We've got women who have worked their way up through the ranks, whether that's in industry or in government or in academia," Aitken said.

She highlighted Diane Nicholls, who became chief forester for the provincial government in 2016, as just one example of women in top forestry leadership positions in B.C. 

Others include people like Susan Yurkovich, head of the B.C. Council of Forest Industries, and Shannon Janzen who is chief forester for one of the the province's largest coastal woodland operators, Western Forest Products.

Aitken said although there is a growing recognition of the need for more balance and diversity at all levels in the industry, there is still much room for improvement.

"It really benefits the organizations themselves. It broadens the workforce and it diversifies the perspectives," she said. "In order to realize that, workplaces need to be more welcoming places than perhaps they historically were."

To hear more, click on the audio link below:

With files from The Early Edition.