Changing face of modern forestry

Public sector forestry is benefiting from a new driving force with four top jobs now being held by women. 

For the first time, women are now in leading forestry roles in both Forestry Commission Scotland and at the Scottish Government.

In an industry traditionally managed by men, the new team demonstrates that this is now changing, and exemplifies the public sector commitment to achieving greater diversity in workplace at a senior level in Scotland.

However, there is still a long way to go – for example, only 30 percent of the current 1,000 Forestry Commission Scotland staff is female, and just 24 per cent of managers.

To help ensure that the forestry sector is able to draw on the widest pool of talent, the Commission has also allocated a further £300,000 towards a skills programme that includes hands-on forestry training for young women.  This programme has already trained up 82 women and the extra funding will support another 20 female trainees.

During a visit to the forestry arena at the Royal Highland Show today, Environment Minister, Dr Aileen McLeod, highlighted the role of women in forestry. She said: 

“Women have a vital role in contributing to the strength and resilience of Scotland’s economy - businesses and organisations benefit if they have more diverse boards.

“Women are increasingly contributing across industry and I want to ensure that modern forestry reflects modern Scotland. We need to draw upon the skills and talents of all of our people, regardless of gender.

“It is clear that women can and should be participating in this dynamic and growing sector and it’s great to see more women now reaching the top of the profession.

“However, women should be more involved at every level of the sector and the additional £300,000 funding is a welcome boost in encouraging more young women at grass roots level to view forestry as a rewarding career.”

The top women working in forestry are:

• Dr Aileen McLeod, Environment Minister;
• Jo O’Hara, Head of Forestry Commission Scotland;
• Amanda Bryan, Forestry Commissioner and Chair of Forestry Commission Scotland’s National Committee; and
• Bridget Campbell, Director Environment & Forestry Directorate at the Scottish Government.

Head of Forestry Commission Scotland, Jo O’Hara added:

“We are keen for more women to have a career in forestry and while we still have a way to go in balancing the equality gap, we are moving in the right direction.  Nearly half of the Commission’s Management Board are women and we also have strong female representation on our National Committee, which oversees our work.

“There are also many women working at all levels in the Commission. It’s a fantastic profession with a wide range of work. In my career I have managed multi-million tree planting programmes, designed forests, worked on IT development, managed corporate programmes, advised Ministers and travelled all over the world.

“It just goes to show what’s possible and I hope my career acts as a motivator to other women interested in taking up or furthering their prospects in the forestry sector.”

Progress in the public sector is also inspiring action in the private sector, explained Stuart Goodall, chief executive of the industry trade body Confor:

“At Confor’s annual dinner earlier this year the Minister laid down a challenge to the private sector to realise the benefits that can come from attracting more women into the industry.

“Confor is undertaking an analysis of the gender split between men and women entering forestry-related education courses as part of work to understand what attracts people to the sector and how we can encourage women to choose forestry as a career.”

The Forestry Commission’s Graduate Programme has been particularly successful in attracting women, as more than 50% of current graduates are female.

The Commission has also recruited 22 female modern apprentices to date. This year, Lesley Stalker, an apprentice working with Forestry Commission Scotland, was awarded the prestigious Lantra Learner of the Year award.

Other women in Forestry Commission Scotland are also making their mark.  Earlier this month, Dr McLeod welcomed the appointment of Dr Sallie Bailey as the new manager for Dumfries & Borders Forest District. Also, Sasha Laing, a development officer based in Hamilton, was recently being awarded a prestigious Distinction in her submission for professional membership of the ICF.

In addition and within the wider forestry sector, Shireen Chambers has held the position of Executive & Technical Director of the Institute of Chartered Foresters (ICF) since 2006. The Edinburgh based organisation is the Royal Chartered body for foresters and arboriculturists in the UK.

Forestry Commission Scotland supports the forest industries which generate around £670 million to the Scottish economy each year and supports 13,000 jobs. The Commission manages around 9 per cent of Scotland’s land mass (660,000 ha), making it the largest land manager in the country. 

Notes to editors

  1. The Forestry Commission Scotland skills programme puts unemployed individuals through work experience programmes which can vary between part-time volunteering (1 day per week) through to intensive full-time technical training (up to 26 weeks). 
    The training includes practical work on silvicultural operations, environmental and recreational improvements. Participants are taught a range of skills (life, forestry and employability) whilst carrying out forest maintenance tasks to improve woodland settings for local communities. The individuals gain certificates of achievement in employability skills and technical training.
  2. Tha FCS pàirt de Bhuidheann-Stiùiridh Àrainneachd is Coilltearachd aig Riaghaltas na h-Alba; a' riaghladh nan 660,000 heactairean ann an Oighreachd na Coille Nàiseanta, a' dìon, a' cumail smachd air, agus a' leudachadh choilltean gus buannachdan a choileanadh dha coimhearsnachdan, dhan eaconamaidh agus ag obair an aghaidh atharrachadh sa ghnàth-shìde.
  3. Media enquiries to Steve Williams, Forestry Commission Scotland press office, 0300 067 6508 / This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.