IFSA Webinar Series on Gender & Forestry: Starting the Conversation

In an age where we are faced with gender inequality that is characterised by uneven access to education, lack of employment equality, job segregation, poor medical care and gender bias, IFSA has developed a webinar series on gender & forestry with the support of the IUFRO Task Force on Gender Equality, leading up to the Forests in Women’s Hands conference. The webinar series with two episodes held on 30 March and 7 April 2021 aimed to tackle and discuss different aspects of gender in forestry, showcasing perspectives of women who have already established their careers in the forestry field.

The first episode introduces us to the #metoo (#slutavverkat) movement in Sweden, with Elin Olofsson and Maria Johansson taking us on a journey through testimonies and experiences, as well as the role of gender and social relations in organizations. The #metoo movement transforms the ownership, and according to Elin, just by breaking the silence, the power distribution shifts. “Almost all the women in the forestry sector have been subject to subtle discrimination” – this striking quote by Elin really makes us think about the exclusion of women in the forestry sector, discontinued careers or cancelled education, verbal and physical sexual harassment, routine offences and the constant pressure to prove that women are just as competent as men, but never getting the same recognition. It is inspirational to listen to people who courageously started a movement such as #metoo and decided to study gender-related issues in a field where they are often not acknowledged.

The second episode, titled “Those who have come before us” aims to inspire future generations of foresters, by introducing us to the personal experiences of Purabi Bose, Kalpana Giri and Eva Müller, who have already established their careers in the forestry field. We are first introduced to the story of how these three inspiring women got into forestry, their experience as forestry students and young professionals and the challenges they had to face in their careers. “One of the major unspoken rules is that men are the leaders. Within the forestry world, everyone accepts that narrative” – this staggering quote by Kalpana Giri sums up the experience and struggles of many women trying to start a career in a male dominated field. However, understanding how gender has played a role throughout their careers can help us find approaches most suitable to tackle challenges related to gender.

Author: Magdalena Jovanovic