2022 Women’s Forest Congress Declaration
We, the Women’s Forest Congress, convened on 17-20 October 2022 with nearly 500 participants from 38 U.S. states, three Canadian provinces, and eight additional nations, make the following Declaration in light of the unique moment in which we stand.
We recognize and acknowledge:
Responsible and sustainable forest management plays an intrinsic role in clean air and water, recreation, and biodiversity; and the products and services of the forest affect all people throughout their lives. Moreover, sustaining and promoting the functions and values of forests requires holistic and integrated thinking about the complex relationships on which these systems depend.
Women are essential to the care of forests, provide leadership, and are catalysts. Diverse women’s perspectives are even more valuable as new and innovative solutions are sought for our greatest forest challenges.
The impacts of historic and systemic discrimination on traditionally marginalized groups, including People of Color and women, trans, non-binary, and gender non-conforming people, and especially the history of displacement through gentrification and genocide on Indigenous and Tribal nations. This discrimination has limited access and advancement and contributed to marginalization.
LEADERSHIP FOR EQUITY AND INCLUSION
The forest and forest products sector currently lacks gender balance and representation. As of 2019, women represented just 16% of forestry and conservation professionals in the U.S. as a whole. Women and people of color are significantly underrepresented, underserved, and historically excluded; thus, these perspectives are likely to occupy a minority share of existing answers and be missing in leadership and C-Suites.
Gender parity, including intersectional parity, leads to a more sustainable forest and forest products sector. Issues of equal access, discrimination, sexual harassment, assault, microaggressions, lack of support, and mentorship opportunities must be addressed. We need comfortable, safe, inviting, and welcoming work environments.
Black, Indigenous, and other Women of Color have needs, requirements, challenges, and experiences that White women do not share.
Equity and inclusion are a path forward as the best way to diversify the talent and creativity needed to address the most critical issues and amplify the opportunities for positive change in the forest and forest products sector.
The sight of a diverse and representative leadership – including at the Executive Suite and Board Levels – is a source of inspiration and motivation for a more diverse talent pool to consider the forest and forest products sector as a career goal or next step.
CATALYSTS FOR CHANGE
Research and place-based knowledge provide evidence that inclusive practices and diverse work environments support creativity. Approaching issues through an inclusive lens can lead to longer-term perspectives that support innovation. When all views are taken into account and valued, women can provide a unique perspective to develop forward-thinking recommendations and actions.
The lack of women’s perspectives leaves a void in the forest and forest products sector. Limiting professional participation by women and marginalized groups restricts opportunities to think about forests in new ways. Gender parity, including intersectional parity, leads to a more sustainable sector and climate.
SUPPORTING EACH OTHER
Women are exemplary, focused, resilient, and effective leaders and engaged in promoting healthy living and work environments, thereby strengthening our capacity and capabilities. Addressing the complex and multi-faceted relationships characteristic of forest ecosystems serves as inspiration in supporting each other.
Women are caregivers within communities and families and need to remember to prioritize mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual health to strengthen the ability to cope with daily stresses and, at the same time, model healthy behaviors for those around us.
Forest-based solutions must be inclusive of the perspectives of family farmers, smallholders, forest communities, Indigenous Peoples, women, and youth and respectful of their rights. (Source: Seoul Forest Declaration).
Indigenous and Tribal nations, impacted by a history of displacement, genocide, and cultural genocide, hold traditional ways of knowing that have historically been devalued and deserve to be elevated and included in decision-making and sustainable forest value chains.
GREATEST FOREST CHALLENGES
The challenges facing forests are diverse and include a loss of forest resiliency, disrupted disturbance regimes, wildland-urban interface conflict, transformative market dynamics, political polarization, climate change, and a lack of understanding and trust in forest management.
The world is relying on the forest and forest products sector to provide solutions to global environmental change. The necessary innovations of today and tomorrow will require interdisciplinary collaboration, creative execution, and the inclusion of a wide range of skills, abilities, perspectives, and talent.
Forests are dynamic and variable across multiple spatial and temporal scales, and taking a longer-term, broader-scale, and inclusive perspective is critical for addressing the greatest forest challenges.
We have the science, experience, and technical expertise, but we need to tap into the hearts and minds of people.
We Resolve to:
The Women’s Forest Congress challenges organizations in the forest and forest products sector to
- FOSTER workforce opportunities for all women through mentorship programs, professional development, scholarships,, with a particular focus on reaching out to those who need help or are asking for assistance in any part of their journey;
- BROADEN recruiting practices to include wider networks, and build a pipeline of talent by connecting with and showcasing forests and the forest and forest products sector to youth and students, creating job shadowing and internship opportunities, etc.;
- BUILD workplace systems that support mental health coverage, and include training and programs promoting healthy lifestyles, such as family leave, flexible work schedules, generous vacation plans, social opportunities, and holistic wellness programs;
- PROMOTE a variety of working environments, encourage flexibility, and ensure all work environments are fully accessible;
- ENABLE employees to prioritize mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual health and model healthy behaviors for others;
- CREATE a safe, inviting, and welcoming workspace for all resulting in greater wellness, increased retention, higher productivity, improved creativity, and heart-centered decision-making;
- ASSESS compensation for women and promote paths to pay equity at all levels, including discrepancies in intersectional identities, communities, and demographics;
- INTENTIONALLY IDENTIFY and support more women and those from underrepresented groups to achieve leadership positions;
- INCREASE the use of storytelling in conferences, trainings, and workshops; and
- APPLY models and frameworks to generate and realize solutions to the greatest forest challenges that are built on women’s strengths, such as inclusive, collaborative, and multi-scale holistic thinking.