The benefits of gender equality in forestry for men

By / Kelly Cooper

The federal government has taken significant leadership on gender equality in Canada in an effort to not only support women but also to improve the Canadian economy. This has generated many conversations around boardroom tables and inspired never before seen numbers of media coverage on indecent behaviour in the workplace, including subsequent legal action taken. No sector is unaffected. Many industry leaders are sitting up and taking notice of these political and legal drivers but are still seeking answers on the business case. Beyond the business case, or as I like to call it, the business advantage, there are benefits to men that need to be highlighted. So, let’s break down the issue, the business advantage, the benefits to men and what is being done to create gender equality in the forest sector.

The issue

According to the Forest Products Association of Canada (FPAC), the forest sector needs anywhere from 40,000-120,000 workers by 2020. Given the hit the forest sector is taking today, let’s be conservative and say 40,000 workers are needed. The forest sector workforce currently consists of 17 per cent women, nine per cent visible minorities, seven per cent Indigenous and 12 per cent new immigrants . Only 20 per cent of the women are registered professional foresters and many leave the sector within the first five years. Women are as educated as men, with Indigenous women holding twice as many degrees as Indigenous men, yet most Indigenous women are typically employed as labourers with low median incomes. These startling facts put business leaders in a position where they must act strategically and quickly to attract and retain people. These facts also point to where those gaps in labour can be met.