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Women’s Forest Congress empowers 600+ women in ag industry

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To mark and recognize International Women’s Day 2021, hundreds of participants — including representatives from the private sector, academia, government, and conservation organizations — came together for a virtual event to inspire, empower, and build relationships as part of the Women’s Forest Congress. The more than 620 registrants came from every U.S. state and Puerto Rico, four Canadian provinces, 26 additional countries, and every continent except Antarctica.

The Women’s Forest Congress was created as a forum to develop strategies and solutions for forests through a female lens. This is the first such event (and was being held virtually for 2021), and the goal of the Congress is to connect women in the sector, shape the latest innovations, and consider how actions informed by the female perspective can make a profound impact on the future of forests.

The theme of International Women’s Day this year was “Choose to Challenge.”

“We can all choose to challenge and call out gender bias and inequality. We can all choose to seek out and celebrate women’s achievements,” organizers said in a statement. “Collectively, we can all help create an inclusive world, and the Women’s Forest Congress is doing its part to change the way we view and approach forests and forestry.

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Attendees came together to learn about the Women’s Forest Congress’ recent efforts and what is ahead, be inspired by the work and leadership of women in natural resources, and understand how we can support each other on International Women’s Day and every day.

“The interest this movement has sparked and the momentum that it has speaks to a centuries-old void and the need for women in the forest and conservation community to have a space to be heard, to listen, and to act,” said Rita Hite, Executive Vice-President, Policy & Strategic Partnerships at the American Forest Foundation. “Our forests face unprecedented challenges today. Throughout history, women have long overcome unthinkable adversity, and so who better to come together now for the future of the forest.”

A keynote address from Paola Deda, the Director of the Forest, Land and Housing Division at the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, drew attention to the underrepresentation of women in forestry but offered an optimistic longer-term outlook and cited a recent Swedish study of forest ownership.

“These women see forests for what they are — not a bunch of trees that can be taken down and used to generate profit, but as part of a larger ecosystem that is worth much more to us and future generations when it thrives,” Deda said.

The importance of leadership and networking was front and center in an interactive interview with Lynn Wilson, President of WinterTide LLC, a supply chain and forest sector consulting firm, on mentor-mentee relationships. Her theme, “The Power of Building Relationships, Networking and Influencing Outcomes,” focused on several questions, including: What can we learn from each other? How do we move in multiple directions?

Wilson’s advice included, “Get in the driver’s seat of your career, your professional development, and your network. If you’re waiting for someone to say, ‘Wow, look at you. You’re doing a great job at this.’ I would turn that around and say, ‘How are you asking for help and networking?'”

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The inaugural in-person meeting of the Women’s Forest Congress will likely be held in 2022, with virtual planning and engagement events like this being planned in the meantime. Learn more by joining the conversation on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

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