Wood Business

Features Features Watch & Listen Women in Forestry
Inspiring inclusion at the fourth Women in Forestry Virtual Summit

March 18, 2024  By  Jennifer Ellson

The 2024 Women in Forestry Virtual Summit attracted 800 registrants from more than 20 countries. Clockwise from top left: Haleigh Callison (Takoda Consulting), Shabnam Sanaei (Canfor), Kristin Dangelmaier (Kruger) and Shahed Tootoonian (Mercer International).

True to this year’s International Women’s Day theme, Inspire Inclusion, the 2024 Women in Forestry summit, held virtually on March 8, celebrated women’s achievement, raised awareness about diversity and gender parity, and more.

The fourth virtual summit didn’t just talk the talk – it walked the walk. The event was a dynamo of empowerment and a celebration of women’s achievements. It wasn’t just about speeches; it was about sparking inspiration.

The event drew some 800 registrants from more than 20 countries, with 500 joining us live to talk about crucial topics like diversity, inclusion, allyship, Indigenous representation, biases, career ladders, and so much more.

Kristen Vitullo and Marisa Meaker-Williamson opened the summit by delving into the latest data from the 2021 Census, offering valuable insights into workforce diversity trends. The policy analysts at the Canadian Forest Service provided attendees with an overview of the strategies and initiatives implemented by Natural Resources Canada to address representation issues in the forest sector.


Clockwise from top left: Marisa Meaker-Williamson (CFS), Jennifer Ellson (CFI) and Kristen Vitullo (CFS).

Through targeted program measures and strategic partnerships, they outlined the efforts undertaken to improve diversity and inclusion within the industry. The presentation highlighted the exciting progress achieved thus far, showcasing tangible advancements made in fostering a more inclusive and representative workforce. Attendees were encouraged to engage with the session to gain a deeper understanding of the ongoing efforts to promote diversity within Canada’s forest sector.

The panel discussion titled “Branching Out: Cultivating Change in the Forest Sector,” moderated by Scot Durward of Tolko Industries, captured the audience’s attention with its engaging exploration of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the forestry industry. Facilitated by the Forest Sector Equity Diversity Inclusion Alliance (FSEDIA), the panel brought together voices from diverse backgrounds, including BIPOC individuals, new entrants, industry leaders, and allies.

Clockwise from top left: Marla Guldbransen (BCSFC), Kimberly Somerville (West Fraser), Sithara Fernando (NorQuest College) and Scot Durward (Tolko).

Panelists Sithara Fernando, Marla Guldbransen, and Kimberly Somerville shared personal experiences, discussing both challenges and triumphs in fostering DEI within the sector. From navigating hurdles to implementing transformative initiatives, the discussion offered actionable insights for professionals at every career stage.

The audience were also treated to a fireside chat, hosted by Haleigh Callison of Takoda Consulting, on Indigenous inclusion, leadership, and values in forestry. Featuring Diane Collins from the Kitsumkalum Economic Development Group of Companies and Dana Collins, manager of partnerships at Mosaic Forest Management, the fireside chat offered a rich exploration of Indigenous perspectives and experiences in the forestry sector and provided attendees with invaluable insights into the ongoing journey of reconciliation, Indigenous participation in the forest economy.

From top left, clockwise: Diane Collins (Kitsumkalum Economic Development Group of Companies), Dana Collins (Mosaic Forest Management) and Haleigh Callison (Takoda Consulting).

Through candid discussions and shared lessons learned, attendees gained a deeper understanding of the importance of Indigenous leadership and values in shaping the future of forestry.

In a session focused on addressing the persistent gender gap in Canada’s forest sector, Kathy Abusow, president and CEO of Sustainable Forestry Initiative and Project Learning Tree (PLT) Canada, and Catherine Langille, Indigenous Relations Coordinator at PLT Canada, provided valuable insights into mentorship and workforce development.

Despite progress, women remain underrepresented in the industry, comprising only 17 percent of the workforce. Abusow discussed the power of mentorship and wraparound career support systems in empowering young women to succeed in forestry. Langille shared her personal journey from mentee to mentor in PLT Canada’s Green Mentor program, illustrating its transformative impact on both individuals and the industry as a whole.

From top left, clockwise: Sukanya Ray Ghosh (PPC), Catherine Langille (SFI and PLT Canada) and Kathy Abusow (SFI and PLT Canada).

The session underscored the importance of mentorship in fostering diversity and inclusion within the forest and conservation sector, offering actionable strategies to bridge the gender gap and cultivate a more equitable workforce.

The highly anticipated panel discussion, ‘Ask the Boss,’ provided attendees with a platform to pose pressing questions to industry leaders. Again hosted by Haleigh Callison, panelists included Shabnam Sanaei, director of bio-innovation and technology at Canfor, Shahed Tootoonian, VP of corporate development at Mercer International, and Kristin Dangelmaier, environment and technical manager at Kruger.

Responding to feedback from last year’s summit survey, the session aimed to address sensitive topics and facilitate constructive conversations between attendees and their bosses. Attendees seized the opportunity to engage with the panelists, sparking meaningful dialogue on crucial issues facing the forest sector. The interactive nature of the panel discussion provided attendees with valuable insights and perspectives from industry experts, empowering them to navigate challenging conversations with confidence.

CFI editor Jennifer Ellson (left) and Kelly Cooper, Centre for Social Intelligence.

Kelly Cooper of the Centre for Social Intelligence closed the event by shedding light on efforts to address gender and diversity challenges within the forest sector, particularly focusing on the initiatives by FSC North America. Cooper highlighted FSC International’s gender and diversity framework, designed to tackle the issue of retaining women in the forest sector. She emphasized FSC North America’s commitment to putting this framework into action, uniting its membership to shift workplace culture towards greater inclusivity for women and all other underrepresented groups.

All of the sessions for the virtual event are now available on demand on our event page, each as an individual YouTube link by clicking on the title of the session.

Thanks to all our sponsors for making this free event possible!

Our gold sponsors: John Deere, Gorman Group, West Fraser and Canfor.

Our silver sponsor Sustainable Forestry Initiative.

And our bronze sponsors: Alberta Forest Products Association, Forestry Innovation Investment, FSC, GreenFirst Forest Products, Mosaic Forest Management, Resolute Forest Products, Woodtone, Forests Ontario, Kadant and Interfor.

Print this page


Stories continue below