By: Nadine Block and Jamie Dahl

Almost a year after important groundwork was laid at the in-person 2022 Women’s Forest Congress (WFC) event in Minneapolis, there continues to be intense excitement to “actualize” the 2022 Declaration.

We were thrilled to gather with approximately 75 participants at a WFC-sponsored “Women in Natural Resources Meet-Up” on October 27 at the Society of American Foresters (SAF) Convention in Sacramento, California. This was the second year the WFC sponsored a meet-up at the SAF Convention, providing a valuable opportunity to build connections and engage in great conversations.

The meet-up featured an opportunity to address Resolution #2 that emerged from the 2022 WFC Declaration, specifically:

“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.”

Several attendees at the meet-up had not been present at WFC’s 2022 Inaugural Event, making this gathering their initial introduction to the Women’s Congress and its participants. After a fun “Bingo Networking” activity and a brief introduction to the WFC and the resolutions, participants divided up into tables to discuss the theme of “navigating career transitions”, tackling questions such as:

  1. How did you navigate career transitions, whether between jobs, stages in a career, school to workforce, or any others?
  2. What was a celebratory milestone in your career?
  3. What are some ways you can offer support to others or that you have found support navigating career questions/transitions?

We each participated at tables featuring a range of career stages, from students to seasoned professionals. A few aspects stood out to us:

  • At each stage in our careers, we are forced to navigate uncertainty. Participants were incredibly open about the difficulties of making these transitions. The challenges may be different at each stage in our careers – feeling unsure whether that first job is the “right” first step, stepping into the unknown when you leave a secure job for a new opportunity, wondering whether that next step will offer the work/life balance we seek – but at each stage, we experience the anxiety of stepping into the unknown.
  • Navigating uncertainty is easier with support and guidance from our colleagues and friends. Participants shared stories about how they benefited from having or making those connections. Some participants expressed nervousness about reaching out to new contacts to seek career advice (fear of asking too much of someone’s time and appearing vulnerable). In contrast, others spoke about how gratifying it is to speak to others in their field about their career paths and how there is mutual gain from those interactions.
  • Striking the balance between personal, work, and school is a challenge that many participants shared. These competing demands change throughout our studies and careers. We discussed the importance of finding those allies, sometimes our life partners, family, and friends, who can help us each strike a healthier balance.
  • Women and minoritized identities experience different barriers and challenges.It was amazing to have a space where we can share those struggles and potential solutions. We enjoyed sharing and listening to each person’s story and helping to celebrate those milestone moments!

Overall, there was excitement about the energy created through meet-ups like this and enthusiasm for using the WFC platform to make progress on these challenges by supporting one another. We are working with WFC and SAF leadership to plan another meet-up in 2024 in Loveland, Colorado, for the next SAF Convention. If you have ideas for our theme and activities, please feel free to share them with us!