The below article is from a Canadian Biomass feature article featuring Women in Forestry.
The right team and flexibility to find the right home-work balance were essential factors for Julie Griffiths to settle into her career with Nova Scotia wood pellet producer Shaw Renewables.
Julie is now a quality, sustainability, and environmental program co-ordinator for the company, and says she’s seeing more and more women enter the forest industry and stay.
Canadian Biomass: What led you to a career in the wood pellet sector?
It was somewhat coincidental that I ended up working with wood pellets. In university I did a masters in science with a focus on earth and enviro sciences.
When I took on the role as geology and environmental specialist at Shaw in 2011, I did not see the transition ahead at all. But slowly, I started working on different projects at Shaw’s two wood pellet plants.
Eventually I jumped ships from the aggregate to wood pellet industry. I feel like I’ve really found my niche and enjoy my work.
CB: What is it about your job that you enjoy?
Honestly, the best part of my job is the team I work with. It makes a world of difference when you like the people you work with and when you feel appreciated and heard.
CB: Do you find there are certain challenges or hurdles for women to enter or stay in the industry?
For the longest time, the forest industry was a male-dominated industry and I think there were significant challenges for women, but industry has come a long way, and we just need to keep up that momentum. Nowadays, it’s not so strange to see men taking on the role of the primary caregiver or splitting a parental leave, and women, more and more, are taking these vacant positions in industry. The diversified workforce makes for more wholesome teams.
For me, the home-work balance was crucial. I’ve been lucky. My team is understanding and provides me with the flexibility that I need to maintain that balance, with some give and take on both sides.
CB: What can companies do to attract and retain women?
Part of attracting women to the workplace starts in the job posting. To me, like I just mentioned, one of the big selling points would be flexibility. Flexibility is like a company’s way of investing in a person, and overall, I think it makes for more committed employees.
Flexibility isn’t always an option though. For labour positions, I think it’s important to describe the physical requirements right in the posting. People, in general, know their own physically capabilities. If the requirements are listed up front, those that can do the job – men or women – will apply.
When it comes to retaining women, honestly, I think having an effective and enforced harassment policy is key. Employees – men and women – should be trained so that they clearly understand what is acceptable in the workplace.
CB: What advice do you have for those considering a career the forest or biomass industry?
Sustainable and green renewable energy will play a big part in helping to meet global carbon emission goals. The industry is still in its infancy, and there is still a lot of opportunity for improvements, growth, and expansion – now’s the time to get on board.