With women making up less than one-fourth of those who manage private family forests, forestry remains a male-dominated field. That can be problematic, because research shows that one of the best ways for forest managers to learn the field is through instruction from other forest managers.
“Sometimes at mixed-gender industry events, women feel intimidated when asking questions and interacting with male counterparts,” says Tiffany Hopkins, a coordinator in the Forestry and Natural Resources Extension Program at Oregon State University.
Hopkins coordinates the Oregon Women Owning Woodlands Network at OSU. WOWNet is a peer-learning network that fosters forestry and decision-making skills by providing hands-on learning opportunities, access to resources, and networking opportunities with other WOWNet members.
The program currently has 382 members spanning Oregon. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Hopkins has held several virtual WOWNet events, including a retreat, C.H.A.T.S. – Conversations Happening Around Trees and Such, and a wreath-making workshop. Prior to the pandemic, WOWNet events included a weekend retreat where 20 women attended workshops about management planning, shiitake mushroom inoculation, tree identification, wildfire preparedness and wildlife habitat. Members attend educational workshops throughout the year at locations all over the state.
WOWNet member Wylda Cafferata manages four parcels of land in Benton, Lane and Lincoln counties with her husband.
“My friends are not woodlands owners,” Cafferata says. “Much of what I do on our forest — site preparation, pruning, planting, tubing, road repair and cruising — is just foreign to them. At WOWNet gatherings, I can talk about forest management issues without getting those odd, glazed stares.”
“It’s important for women who manage forests to be connected with women who do the same thing,” says member Linda Farris. “In a group of women it’s easier to bring up issues related to size and strength and to ask how to use a tool or what a particular forest practice does.
“I feel comfortable asking questions that I might hesitate to ask in a mixed group,” Farris says.” We have a shared experience base that we all understand.”