Words by Deniz Ataman

The feminine is a life force.

From the divine perspective, it’s the feminine energy that creates life. An energy that embodies the archetypes of goddess, queen, mother, warrior, lover, priestess and crone. In the wild, female creatures are protectresses and nourishers of their offspring, helping their young ones embrace instinct, prowess and survival at birth. When we think of nature’s biodiversity it gives us a profound meaning of depth and adventure. There’s always a new discovery when it comes to Earth’s bounty, as every creature and organism has a purpose in the ecosystem.

As humans, women have paved the way for humanity in a male-centric society as thought leaders and innovators for centuries, though many have been overshadowed by gender-based cultural norms. On International Women’s Day, we’re celebrating diversity in the sciences and agriculture – professions that have shaped our love and understanding of nature – and show our support for this year’s #IWD theme of ‘Challenge to Change’.

“We are all the same, living on one earth, with one life, one lifetime and to me, that is the definition of ‘equal’. No matter your gender, we share an equal mission on this planet.”

Akiko Hirose, Assistant Manager - Japan

Women in Agroforestry

Interest in these fields is growing as solutions towards climate mitigation evolve – and there’s a reason for this growth. Agroforestry is responsible for isolating carbon in the air, reducing greenhouse gas and strengthening landscape resiliency. Women in the environmental sciences, particularly in agroforestry, are holding more leadership positions allowing opportunities for innovative strategies to cultivate a healthier planet.

All over the world, women are making impacts in the field bringing new insights to resource preservation, sustainability and regulation. Here in Australia, Dr. Michelle Freeman serves as the Vice President of the Institute of Foresters of Australia and Australian Forest Growers; while Jan Newport serves as the Director of the organisation. In collaboration with their board, they’re both expanding forestry initiatives all over Australia to ensure sustainable resource management and preservation for private and commercial sectors. In Canada, Jennifer Tallman manages public forests as Chief Forester for Canadian timber company EACOM Timber. Carolyn Mulligan in the United States has made a tremendous impact in her 36-year career as a leading forester, serving as the President of the Virginia Forestry Association, and later as the District Manager at American Forest Management by developing resource management initiatives like natural regenerative processes.

“Diversity in the workplace allows everyone to feel accepted. It results in our work environments being positive for every employee, no matter their gender.”

Jenna Damota, Sales & Business Manager - North America

According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), women make up 43% of the global agricultural labor force with more women pursuing degrees in the field. The rise of agroforestry programs for women has elevated the field all over the world. For example, the Australia-based forum Women in Forests and Timber Network, is dedicated to the professional growth and skill development of women in forestry, essential in driving diversity within our industries and encouraging other women to pursue careers in forestry.

The Gender Gap is No Science

The science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields have been male dominated throughout history. Of course we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention pioneers like the physicist Madame Curie, NASA’s first African American female engineer, Mary W. Jackson, primatologist Jane Goodall or Babylonian scientist Tapputi Bellatikallim (who was considered the world’s first chemist over 3,000 years ago). Yet for every female and minority STEM visionary, there are 20 more men in the same field. Additionally, one in three women may be forced to cut back or quit their careers to focus on family, according to the Women in the Workplace Report.

Though history is blessed with STEM visionaries, women still only make up 28% of STEM jobs which not only contributes to the gender gap but limits the diversity and talent in these fields. According to Pew Research Center, a STEM worker earns two-thirds more than those working in other fields. Female workers in STEM earn 89 cents to the dollar that men make, with some fields having a larger wage gap. Though we have more work to do to normalise women in STEM, it’s clear that these fields are progressing more than they were a few decades ago. "Diversity already exists all around us but what we need is more awareness of how diversity contributes positively to workplaces and professional teams" says Gracebel Llorente, a member of our biosecurity team. 

“Diversity provides new experiences and knowledge from outside your immediate environment, a different point of view, a fresh set of eyes, and new opportunities to challenge obstacles.”

Eliza Garton, Sales & Business Development Manager - Australia

"In many parts of the world, science education is available for young women but there are still many parts of the world that don't allow women to obtain a formal education or work in certain fields" says Karen Condon, Quintis' Quality Assurance Manager. At Quintis, there is a number of women in science related roles from our forest biosecurity teams through to our quality and processing teams. The diversity of our teams ensures creative and dynamic thinking, engaging a range of resources and enhancing collaboration to achieve positive outcomes. For us, encouraging more women to enter a STEM related field is important to enhance innovation.

A Diverse Workplace is a Thriving Business

In the West, companies with above-average diversity generate 45% more revenue. So not only is diversity in the workplace a metric to pursue, it’s also a financially sound decision. In South-East Asia, women in the workforce make up 42% of the total; which is higher than the global average of 39%. In the 2018 Hays Asia Diversity and Inclusion report, respondents reported enhanced company culture, leadership and greater innovation as the top three benefits of diversity.

“I feel as though I am considered an equal at Quintis. I’m provided the same opportunities as my male colleagues and I believe that diversity allows us to be more creative, whilst learning new skills from each other.”

Elena Su, General Manager - China

With a diverse workplace comes a more collaborative team. As we mentioned earlier, women are holding more leadership positions within the environmental sciences and in turn providing more opportunity for career growth and collaborative partnerships. Having a diverse range of talents, experience, knowledge and skillsets not only empowers individuals to contribute, but it also strengthens a company’s reputation and brand.

Take a look at any professional sports team. Each player offers a unique skill that offers the team a leg up in a game against their opponent. It’s the same in the sciences. Agroforestry organisations and companies that hire employees with knowledge in allied disciplines such as biology, technology or public education, among others benefit greatly when it comes to implementing new resource management strategies.

“My experience at Quintis is best described as ‘equal’. I’ve never felt that my gender has influenced my colleagues or leadership either way. I’ve always felt my thoughts and opinions are valued because of my experience.”

Kelly Delgado, Sales & Business Development Manager - North America

In 2021 we’ve come a long way since the early 1900s when gender equality became a mainstream issue; but there’s still more to be done. More women pursuing the environmental sciences means more innovation towards land resource management and climate mitigation. We’re more knowledgeable about plant life than ever before and the more teamwork we can cultivate, the better we can cultivate a healthier land.

Today is an additional reminder that gender parity is still an ongoing issue, with significant progress made in some geographies and in others, improvements are still required. Our priority is to provide a safe and collaborative environment where all people can feel cared for and heard. Regardless of gender, we believe that our people are critical to our success and on #IWD2021, we recommit to ensuring a more positive future for everyone at Quintis.

To learn more about International Women's Day, head to internationalwomensday.com.