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Canada's Forestry board the 'worst in terms of gender representation,' says forestry institute

A new initiative by the Canadian Institute of Forestry is looking to find ways to promote gender equity in Canada's forest sector and is creating a national action plan to support the "recruitment, retention and advancement of women."

Women make up only 17% of the forestry workforce in Canada

Canadian Institute of Forestry executive director Dana Collins said the steering committee is comprised of representatives from across the forest sector and "they were picked because they have already shown a presence of change or have made change within their individual organizations." (Canadian Institute of Forestry / Facebook)

A new initiative by the Canadian Institute of Forestry is looking to find ways to promote gender equity in Canada's forest sector and is creating a national action plan to support the "recruitment, retention and advancement of women."

"We see that women only make up about 17 per cent of the entire workforce," Canadian Institute of Forestry executive director Dana Collins said, after the organization studied data from Natural Resources Canada.

"As you start moving down the line and breaking that up into different positions, we see that that's even less so within executive level positions."

Collins said out of all the industries across Canada, the board representation in the forestry sector is "the worst in terms of gender representation." That's why the institute has decided to put together a national action plan with "implementation strategies for all segments of the forest sector." 

"So this is inclusive of industry, academia, not-for-profit, government [sectors] and look to find ways to target gender diversity within Canada's forest sector," she said.

The Canadian Institute of Forestry is creating a national action plan to promote gender equity in the forest sector in Canada. The action plan is expected to be completed by early 2021. (Canadian Institute of Forestry / Facebook)

The initiative originally started as a passion project for Collins, she said, as she is only the second woman to be in the executive director position in the 110 year history of the organization.

"Having to sit on my executive committee and my board committees and deal with our greater membership at large, it's incredibly apparent that this still continues to be an issue within the forest sector," Collins said adding that the representation between men and women in the post secondary level is equal, but "that parity isn't mirrored," in the profession.

While the announcement of the national action plan came at the end of November 2018, Collins said the institute actually received federal funding of $467,000 in April from Status of Women Canada, however they were "not able to kick start the initiative until the ministers have made their formal announcement."

Meanwhile, Collins said the organization started working behind the scenes during the summer of 2018 and selected a dozen people to be part of a steering committee that's tasked with helping develop strategies specific to the forest sector.

She said some of those strategies include workplace culture training, equal pay and the creation of mentorship programs to give women the opportunity to rise to the executive level position.

The national action plan is expected to be completed by early 2021.