Women an untapped potential in forestry

23 september 2020 The Nordic forest industry is in huge need of labor, but the proportion of female forest workers is minimal. Women are a large, still not used resource in Nordic forestry, according to Nordic Forest Research (SNS), whom is now launching a report on gender equality in the Nordic forests. (Swedish version further down). / SNS

​About half of the area of the Nordic forests is today owned by private, small forest owners, the rest by large forest companies. For private forest owners, gender equality has had a positive trend in recent decades due to, among other things, modified legislation for heritage.

In Sweden and Finland today, about 40% of private forest owners are women, while in Norway the proportion is 25% and in Denmark only 14%.

– But despite an increasing proportion of female private forest owners, the proportion of female representatives in forest owner organizations varies greatly. And here the development seems to be going more slowly. Especially when it comes to various top positions, where the proportion of women is still small. The distribution of women and men differs greatly between the Nordic countries, but also within a country and between a country’s different companies, says Birger Vennesland, researcher and coordinator for the gender equality report working group.

In Finland, which has the largest proportion of women in forest owners’ organizations, women are in majority with 64% in one organization, while another Finnish organization the women makes only 11%.

In Norway, the proportion of female board members and employees in the forest owners’ associations is between 25 and 50%, at Mellanskog in Sweden one third are women and at the Icelandic association the proportion of women is 57%.

In the Danish Forest Association, no woman is represented at all.

Lack of labor
Among Nordic forest workers, there is a very long way to go before reaching an even gender distribution. Despite investments in new technology, the establishment of supporting networks and various educational initiatives, the proportion of women is still very low or almost non-existent.

– With four percent women out of about 12,000 drivers, Sweden is the country with the largest proportion of women. Other countries reach just under two percent, says Birger Vennesland.

Changing the working environment and employing more women in top positions could be important pieces in the struggle to make Nordic forestry more competitive. And that should be entirely possible in the future as more and more women choose forest-related educations.
– At Linnaeus University in Sweden and the University of Applied Sciences in Finland, almost half of the students are women with 45 percent and at Iceland’s Agriculture University of Iceland the proportion is even more equal with 47 percent women. In Norway, the proportion of female students is still low with only 15 percent women at both NMBU and INN, Birger Vennesland continues.

The report gives options for the future
So what does it take to recruit more equally for jobs in the Nordic forests? Or, perhaps more importantly, how should the forest sector be changed to become an equal and inclusive environment that everyone, regardless of gender, sees as a possible and attractive workplace?

Jonas Rönnberg, head at SNS, Nordic Forest Research, secretariat, has suggestions.

– In the report “Gender balance in the Nordic forest sector”, SNS proposes four research areas for increased knowledge for a more equal Nordic forestry:

1) How women and men with forestry education experience the work environment, opportunities for careers, gender equality development, etc

2) How the younger generation views forestry education in the future

3) How forest owner organizations implement gender equality in their strategies and operational work

4) Strategic analysis of gender equality plans and activities in various Nordic forest organizations and companies

The aim of the report…
…is to make an overview of the state of gender equality in the Nordic forest sector today. The project has made it possible to compare fresh data over national borders. SNS has further ideas on how to explore and improve gender equality in the forest sector in the future, and the work will go on! Get all relevant updates on FacebookLinkedIn and Twitter!

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For further information
Jonas Rönnberg, operations manager SNS (Nordic Forest Research), jonas.ronnberg@slu.se, telephone: +46 70 672 76 43

Birger Vennesland, researcher and project manager for the gender equality report, birger.vennesland@nibio.no, telephone: +47 482 429 88

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