Q & A
Women in Forestry
Starting a family: Q&A with woodlands operations supervisor Krysta Phillips
By Maria Church
Krysta Phillips is a woodlands operations supervisor in Ontario and a new mom of four-month-old Jax. She’s now on a maternity leave and we caught up with her to get a sense of what it’s like starting a family part-way into a career in the forest industry. Krysta’s photo was taken 11 days before her son was born. She says the support from her co-workers and family was essential to her comfortably continuing her physical job during her pregnancy.
What led you to a career in forestry?
Since I was very young, I have always been in the outdoors with my family. I loved the outdoors, wildlife and any activity that involved being outside. Since I loved hunting and fishing so much, I really wanted to pursue a job as a conservation officer, to help maintain and protect our resources for future generations to enjoy.
I got accepted at College Boreal in the Forestry, Fish & Wildlife program. I am very fortunate to have worked in several different fields of the trade: Ontario’s MNRF [Ministry of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources and Forestry] in Hearst, invasive species studies in Sudbury, supervision with a local logging contractor and now my position with EACOM [now Interfor] as a woodlands supervisor.
What is it about your job that you enjoy?
I enjoy working in a field that protects, manages and sustains our natural resources for others to enjoy. The people I’ve met and worked with along my journey are always amazing and have so much knowledge and stories to share. It is such a great feeling knowing that what I do every day for work, in some way, shape or form, can contribute to such great memories for others.
Do you find there are certain challenges or hurdles for women to enter or stay in the industry?
When I started out in forestry, there were not many women that I knew in our company who were in the field in a full-time position. So being a female supervisor did bring a few hurdles when it came to guiding or correcting situations in the bush. I found by working hard and being determined, these hurdles are brought down.
To stay in the field as a woman, the biggest point I cannot stress enough is to know your worth, hold your ground and prove yourself to everyone.
People will respect you and help guide you along the way as long as you are willing. Listen to everyone along your path that you work with and encounter because they can share lots of knowledge like tricks of the trade and opportunities to improve.
You recently had your first child, Jax – congratulations! Did you find there were challenges when it comes to starting a family?
Starting a family at the beginning seemed challenging. Being a field woodlands supervisor, I am always across multiple jobs sites in Ontario. It always seemed as if it would be difficult to balance both working away from home and having a little one back home. But my experience starting a family while working in the field was amazing.
I had an amazing team of coworkers by my side, always ensuring I was okay, accepting my constantly changing body, which brought new challenges in the field. It was like walking around with a watermelon taped around my waist!
The further along I got in the pregnancy, I knew I could count on my coworkers to help me out with things that I used to do easily that were now quite difficult. Like walking for many kilometers in a planned harvesting block to put up ribbon.
Of course my family was another major help. I can’t thank them enough for everything they’ve done. Brandon, my partner, always made sure I wasn’t overdoing myself, helped me unwind after long days of work and he would insist I take breaks and let my body relax while he did most of the work around the house.
What can companies do to support new parents and especially women to stay in the industry?
I strongly believe that companies need to be supportive of new parents, especially women, to stay in forestry. Juggling parenthood and work is a whole new learning curve for us and can be difficult. They should not discourage women for wanting to start a family, or even pursue their dreams no matter their physical capabilities at the time.
Allow women to prove themselves in the industry. My co-workers and workplace were super supportive throughout my pregnancy and I could not thank them enough – they truly are my work family. If all companies supported their staff like that, women would not be scared to start a family, no matter how long they’ve been in a certain position.
What advice do you have for those considering a career the forest industry?
If at first you don’t succeed, try again. Take every opportunity to learn and grow yourself. Do not let your lack of confidence or perception stop you from gaining experience and taking opportunities.
Everyone will make mistakes at some point in their career so do not be self-conscious, regardless of your gender, age, or years of experience in the industry. Work through your insecurities, push yourself to grow every day and do not be scared to question the status quo.
This post is part of CFI, Pulp & Paper Canada and Canadian Biomass’ Women in Forestry series celebrating International Women’s Day on March 8. Find more content here and follow us on social media with the hashtags: #WomeninForestry, #IWD2022 and #BreaktheBias.
Remember to join us for the Women in Forestry Virtual Summit on Mar. 8 at 11 am ET/8 am PT! It’s FREE to register. Sign up now!