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Men Only – Are we excluding women from UK woodlands? ~ by Angus

Men Only – Are we excluding women from UK woodlands?

One of the cultural issues we have come across at Woodlands.co.uk is that historically forestry has been a men-only sort of thing.  Most qualified foresters are male and the Forestry Commission, whilst employing many women, has relatively few of its women on the “front line” actually meeting woodland owners and doing hands-on management.  There may be many reasons for this and it seems to be the same in other countries around the world, but it does arguably make an enormous difference to how forestry is “done” and how woodlands are used.


In view of the male domination of forestry it may be worth taking the risk of stereotyping - from an evolutionary point of view men are perhaps more likely to be interested in big management schemes, in challenges involving heavy machinery, in growing a profitable crop and in going into the unknown to explore what’s there.  By contrast women may be thought to be more interested in the more “domestic arts” of interacting with the forest, identifying wildlife, getting to know local people and making a comfortable central camp area.

If these stereotypes contain some truth, the consequences may be very significant considering men dominate all the UK forestry organisations including the commercial forest management companies, the Forestry Commission and the colleges teaching forestry (principally Bangor, Aberystwyth and Aberdeen).

People who buy small woodlands which they intend to manage themselves and enjoy have proved to be much more likely to be guided by more “female” ideas about what to do in a woodland and how it should be managed and enjoyed.  For example, we have found that buyers of small woodlands are thinking about a lot more than timber production, and are more likely to favour a gradualist approach to management.  Our buyers are definitely less interested in shooting woodland deer and more likely to want to take photos of them.

It could be said that as more and more couples, families and women buy small woodlands the female influence will increase, probably introducing more diverse management methods … and perhaps less of the warrior spirit!  However regulation by male-dominated forestry authorities may make it quite hard for more female traits to flourish.  How does this reflect in day-to-day management:

-         the view of  some in authority that tools can always be hauled to the site for “forestry operations” and permanent secure tool stores are not required;

-         the ambivalent attitude of many foresters towards owners camping in their woodlands and really getting to know them;

-         the lack of integration of woodlands into the local economy?

-         the difficulty owners have with creating people-centred facilities such as loos and car parking areas, which has proved a considerable constraint on social forestry projects;

-         grants not significantly weighted towards smaller owners, but towards industrial forestry and professional management. 

 What has been your experience of tensions between small woodlands and conventional forestry?   Is the gender of owners, managers and regulators relevant?

Posted in: Flora & Fauna, Woodland Activities ~ On: 5 September, 2008

11 comments so far

5 February, 2018

Ten years on and I am not sure if there has been much progress. I came to this artcle to googling ‘chainsaw trousers for women’ hoping to find answers. I need to buy a new pair of chainsaw trousers. My old pair, bought in a rush, fit badly as they were for men.

With time to browse I thought I may find a better pair. This is the first page I could actually read in full as it is not overtly explicit in derogatory, misogynistic and objectifying views.


Gareth Walters
29 November, 2017

I found the article a patronising load of twaddle…if you use the word lumber jill to describe women in the industry you need shooting…even if you are trying to be helpful.

I run a countryside management operation but I also engage the public and make a nice campsite! I’m not sure what female traits are!! Aren’t we all just human beings trying to get on with it.

Sorry your article made me want to cry…must be in touch with my feminine side…do you think??

25 January, 2014

Hi Everyone, i know this is a very old post but from a male foresters point of view have no issues what so ever with hiring women for forestry work, in fact in some cases i have found that the women in my team work harder that their male counterparts as they seem to be trying to prove something that they can work as hard. Obviously there are some aspects of the job that do require some brute force and ignorance that us chaps seem to have in abundance, but on the whole women should be allowed more front line experience if nothing else to give them more credibility if they do decide to further their career in a more managerial role.

I have several very large planting jobs coming up and i have found recently over the years that more and more of the lads coming out of college don’t want to do the manual stuff, in fact unless they can sit behind the wheel of a large piece of machinery they are not interested.

If there are any women living in the Shropshire, Malvern or Monmouth areas give me a call i am currently recruiting a female planting team and looking for more as so far the exercise has proved very successful with both my wife and her friend working very hard planting on large steep slopes and brash sites as and when required, also carrying stakes and guards across the site, they have also been given experience of spraying with knapsacks and has proved very useful when my wife has returned back to the office speaking to clients and being more realistic and creative when pricing jobs up..Lumber-jills are back and very much alive in the industry.

Take a look on my website under brush-cutting, you will see one of my lumberjills brush-cutting and NO she is not the stereo typical version as shown on the website mentioned by Hilary this is a professional company and all PPE must be worn in the correct manner.

13 February, 2009

You only have to Google “women” & “chainsaw” to see how much sexism there is around this subject. There is absolutely no reason why a woman cannot handle chainsaws, particularly if they are doing manual work every day. Since I bought my chainsaw, I have had several men suggest that I shouldn’t be using one: this is without enquiring either about skills experience or training, and is therefore based solely on my gender. Very tedious and yet another area in which some men seek to mystify & exclude womn on the basis of not very much at all.

18 September, 2008

Just as an after-thought and to illustrate my point about strategist males and creative females, The Chief Exec of The Woodland Trust is Sue Holden and the Small Woods Association, of which I am a trustee, is lucky to have Judy Walker as Chief Executive and Di Woods as Commercial Manager.

17 September, 2008

It is unusual to find a woman who uses a chainsaw regularly and I still prickle when the guys in the stores talk to me in words of one syllable. That said it is a comparatively rare woman who has the physique and inclination to do this kind of work.The family members who come to help me are all the boys who get a thrill from using power tools. Men are strategists and women are creative, let’s glory in the difference and work together to cover all aspects of what sensitive and responsible native woodland management requires. That having been said,chaps, when I come in to your store to buy wedges, please don’t point out that actually the one’s I’ve picked up are plastic, I know that already! And, yes, there is reluctance to appoint women into the forestry industry but it’s much more usual to find a man who has had the relevant experience, eg. Contracting,to give them ‘industry’ knowledge, with the nurturing sort of ‘woodland management’ only in recent years being resuscitated.
We are responding to social, ecological and landscape needs and our time will come.

11 September, 2008

It’s worth noting that LANTRA are offering grants for training to women in forestry thro’ their Women in Work programme http://www.lantra.co.uk/businesses/england/womenandwork

Tracy Pepler
11 September, 2008

Hi Bernie

The wellies are the cheapest ones, leather are so expensive anyway! I have found that they are very comfortable, but worth trying on before hand, as the boots are much bigger than normal sizes!

9 September, 2008

Have a look on the internet regarding the Timber Corp which was the woodland option for the land army during the war, also some good old photos relating to the scottish forestry industry if you look under CRAWLER photos

Ps. Had difficulty getting toe capped wellies for Theresa because of small size but eventualy got them for £20 ish from / via Dunlop
Also difficult / imposible to get Chainsaw boots that are non leather ie Vegan except in Wellies style


Tracy Pepler
8 September, 2008

Well, if getting chainsaw gear is anything to go by…. our local shop didn’t stock trousers or boots in ladies sizes, the smallest boots they had was a size 8 I think, and they wanted to charge an extra £10 to order a 5!

Chris W
6 September, 2008

Firstly the colleges named teaching forestry all seem to be in the Highland region so are probably teaching this type of forestry. Other colleges, such as Sparsholt in Hampshire teach Lowland forestry which is not quite so plantation orientated now.

We are in the medium woodland scale as far as the Forestry Commission are concerned, and have found them very helpful with the gradualist approach including natural regeneration, coppicing and bringing the coppice back into rotation. Grants are available for small owners, but there is some paperwork involved and the FC want to know what you are doing, and that public money will be well spent

Car parking, tool storage etc are not only a problem with the Forestry Commission who do not see it as ‘just a little bit of wood cut down so the owner can put in …’, but the overall loss of perhaps 1/2 acre per 5 acres of woodland, but mainly to do with planning authorities. Planning authorities generally do not like any change of use, and we found them unhelpful and unknowedgeable about what we could actually do.

Women worked in the forests during both world wars. They were nicknamed ‘Lumberjills’ I came across quite a lot of stories about them in a book; Stories of old countrywomen I think. Some were employed on quite responsible jobs, but mainly on cutting (with axes and two man saws).

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