International day of celebration: industry trumpets value of women

‘We have opportunities to succeed and thrive in our chosen field.’

Wed 08 Mar 23


“Although there is still a long way to go for women and girls all around the world, every step forward shows that we can live in a more equitable world, where all women have the opportunity to succeed and thrive in their chosen fields.”

Eileen Newbury, FWPA Head of Marketing and Communication

This LinkedIn post by Eileen Newbury, head of marketing and communication at Forest and Wood Products Australia, captures the sentiment across the industry’s workforce on International Women’s Day March 8.

Eileen Newbury… there has been significant increase in the number of women employed in the industry.

According to a recent study, greater numbers of women are entering the wood products sector, with some companies reporting a rise in female employees of more than 20%.

“On International Women’s Day I am remembering how thrilled I was when I received the results of the 2022 Gender and Diversity Survey of companies in the forest grower and timber processing sector,” Eileen Newbury said.

“The results found that there has been significant increase in the number of women employed in the industry. More women were in leadership positions, and there were also reports of improvements in workplace culture and gender diversity policies.”

Eileen Newbury referenced the 2022 Gender and Diversity Study.

Highlighting the significance of women in industry, Dr Michelle Freeman was this week elected president of Forestry Australia, an association with more than 1000 members. 

Outgoing president Bob Gordon said it was heartening to see Michelle accept the nomination to take the leadership of the team, particularly on the eve of International Women’s Day.

“Michelle has been on the board for a number of years and has already made a very significant contribution to Forestry Australia and I look forward to her leadership,” he said.

Australia’s largest meeting of women in construction took place earlier this week at Sydney Build.

The Sydney Build ‘Women in Construction’ forum is Australia’s largest meeting of women in the Building and Construction Industry. (Source: Sydney Build)

The session provided an opportunity for all professionals and students interested in construction, architecture, engineering and related fields to network, learn and feel inspired. A panel of established experts discussing the untapped opportunities for women, challenges faced and industry changes that are needed across the workplace.

Sydney Build works with an amazing team of Women in Construction Ambassadors who are furthering equality in the built environment.

In Brisbane today, more than 40 members of the Women in Forests and Timber Network gathered to celebrate. Alicia Oelkers, general manager of member services at TABMA Australia, led a panel including Fiona Luckey, national specification manager at Dindas Australia, and Kelly Frahm, state distribution manager for Hyne Timber.

More than 40 members of the Women in Timber and Foresters Network (WTFN) gathered in Brisbane. The WFTN is a forum for women in our industry to meet, exchange ideas and ensure our voices are heard. The Queensland network meets quarterly and run an annual Charity event every year.

Organiser Jenni Day of Versace Timbers said the network embraced equity and was a format that would grow organically and work to retrain and encourage women to join the industry.

The gathering also noted the 40-year-plus contribution to industry by timber stalwart Debbie Payne who recently retired from ITI Timber and was previously with the engineered wood sector of Tillings and Future Build.

“Women in forestry are breaking the glass ceiling and paving the way for the next generation of women to pursue a career in environmental science and innovation, to enhance community values and to promote the importance of forestry in our circular economy,” said Nathan Paine, CEO, South Australian Forest Products Association in a media release.

International Women’s Day takes place on March 8 every year to celebrate women’s rights and inspire people to act in the ongoing fight for gender equality. Footage courtesy of @BehindtheNewsABC

“With this year’s International Women’s Day theme ‘Embrace Equity’, our forest industries have for long been committed to acquiring a diverse, inclusive and equitable workforce, with one of our members already reaching a 50:50 gender ratio in the workplace,” he said.

“Forest and timber industries employ women in an array of roles, from general managers, environmental scientists, foresters, researchers, operation managers, mill workers, fire fighters, event managers, administrators, to name just a few.

“SAFPA encourages women, young and old, to embrace the opportunities available within the forest and timber industries.  It is a unique employment experience, and with the global demand for fibre increasing and the amplified support the industry is receiving from federal and state governments, it is a growing career opportunity with no limitations.”

FSC Australia and New Zealand CEO Melanie Robertson said gender equality was a fundamental aspect of responsible forest management.

The campaign was launched by FSC yesterday on March 7, 2023.

“Our forestry standards mandate that all employment practices, training opportunities, contract allocations, and management activities must offer equal opportunities for both men and women,” Melanie said.

“Additionally, we ensure that all employees, regardless of gender, receive fair and equitable compensation for the same work.

International Women’s Day was an opportunity to showcase some of the exceptional women in the FSC forestry community through the #WomenInResponsibleForestry campaign and these include:

  • Rayne Van Den Berg, chief financial officer for FSC-certified forestry organisation Forico Pty Limited, based in Tasmania. Forico manages the largest privately-owned land estate in Tasmania.
  • Maddie Campbell, silvicultural supervisor at FSC-certified forestry organisation, Australian Bluegum Plantations Pty Ltd.
  • Sarah Orton, environmental forester at FSC-certified forestry organisation PF Olsen Limited. She has been a trailblazer in the forestry industry since graduating from the University of Canterbury in 2008.
  • Ebony Loveland, silviculture planner at HVP Plantations, an FSC-certified forestry organisation located in Victoria. Ebony initially joined HVP as a research forester, but after returning from maternity leave, she has transitioned into her new role as a silvicultural planner.

On her experience in the forestry industry Ebony said: “Some of the most knowledgeable and experienced staff who play a key role in the business are women, and all staff, male and female, are friendly and always willing to help. It’s been a rewarding career.”

And, from Alberta, Canada… Liezl van Wyk, senior vice-president of operations for Drax Global’s northern region pellet group:

“I celebrate the women in the forestry industry. Resource and extractive industries can have some rough edges, and women who do well tend to be focused, hard workers and embrace a professional style, which creates very high calibre female role models who embody a willingness to collaborate, coach others and empower colleagues to live a work life balance.

“On International Women’s Day, I am reminded of the importance of bringing women together to help build that community which is very important for all companies to embrace and cultivate.”


  • Jim Bowden

    Jim Bowden, senior editor and co-publisher of Wood Central. Jim brings 50-plus years’ experience in agriculture and timber journalism. Since he founded Australian Timberman in 1977, he has been devoted to the forest industry – with a passion.


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