Inaugural Women’s Forest Congress

Nearly 500 participants, both in-person and virtually, from 38 U.S. states, three Canadian provinces, and eight additional nations attended the inaugural Women’s Forest Congress (WFC) in Minneapolis, October 17-20. Attendees used their diverse and collective expertise to develop strategies and solutions and propose resolutions to address most pressing challenges for forests and women.

“This is the first time I’ve been in a room with so many women connected to forestry. The Women’s Forest Congress was by far one of the absolute best professional events I’ve ever attended; it brought everybody together and will help change where we go as a profession,” says Ebonie Alexander, Executive Director, Black Family Land Trust and WFC Advisory Council Member.

The themes addressed at the Congress included leadership for equity and inclusion; workforce opportunities for increasing recruitment, retention, and advancement; women as catalysts for change; addressing today’s greatest forest challenges, and supporting each other.

“The world is relying on the forest and forest products sector to provide solutions to environmental challenges, and when we embrace diverse perspectives to bring to the table all these voices that have for so long been missing from the conversation—we end up with the best possible innovations,” explains Tia Beavert, Tribal Forest Manager, Yakama Nation Tribal Forestry and WFC Advisory Council Member.

The WFC provided a space to discuss these themes and to inform the creation of the WFC resolutions that call for change in the forest and forest products sector. Attendees had a chance to influence the resolutions. Thirty-nine delegates, nominated and selected to represent diverse experiences and perspectives, listened throughout the Congress, completed their deliberations, and presented the final document at the close of the Congress.

“With almost 500 participants and more than 40 financial sponsors, the Women’s Forest Congress proves that a dream can become a reality when you put like-minded women together. This is only the beginning,” says Antomia “Mia” Farrell, Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, College of Agriculture, Food and Environment, University of Kentucky, who emceed the event.

Approved WFC Resolutions
The 2022 Women’s Forest Congress Declaration was endorsed at the inaugural 2022 Women’s Forest Congress and is summarized by the concluding call to action in the document.

The Women’s Forest Congress challenges organizations in the forest and forest products sector to:

  1. Foster workforce opportunities for all women through mentorship programs, professional development, scholarships, with a particular focus on reaching out to those who need help or are asking for assistance in any part of their journey;
  2. Broaden recruiting practices to include wider networks, and build a pipeline of talent by connecting with and showcasing forests and the forest and forest products sector to youth and students, creating job shadowing and internship opportunities, etc.;
  3. Build workplace systems that support mental health coverage, and include training and programs promoting healthy lifestyles, such as family leave, flexible work schedules, generous vacation plans, social opportunities, and holistic wellness programs;
  4. Promote a variety of working environments, encourage flexibility, and ensure all work environments are fully accessible;
  5. Enable employees to prioritize mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual health and model healthy behaviors for others;
  6. Create a safe, inviting, and welcoming workspace for all resulting in greater wellness, increased retention, higher productivity, improved creativity, and heart-centered decision-making;
  7. Assess compensation for women and promote paths to pay equity at all levels, including discrepancies in intersectional identities, communities, and demographics;
  8. Intentionally identify and support more women and those from underrepresented groups to achieve leadership positions;
  9. Increase the use of storytelling in conferences, trainings, and workshops; and
  10. Apply models and frameworks to generate and realize solutions to the greatest forest challenges that are built on women’s strengths, such as inclusive, collaborative, and multi-scale holistic thinking.

The participants of the 2022 Women’s Forest Congress, our supporters, and partners commit ourselves to advance these actions through our organizations, networks, partnerships, and spheres of influence.

To learn more about the WFC, visit womensforestcongress.org.

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