The 11th Jack Westoby Lecture: Enabling women in the forest sciences

Presented by ANU College of Science

Historical pictures of forest science meetings depict primarily, sometimes exclusively, male participants. We are not surprised about this as historical, cultural, sociological and political circumstances have not supported the involvement of women in forestry and in forest sciences; these have been traditionally male-dominated sectors in many countries globally. Female students have participated in higher education in forestry and the forest sciences for around a century in Europe, and for lesser periods elsewhere. While undergraduate and graduate forestry classes are now mostly gender-balanced, women forest science researchers are still a minority and rarely found in leadership positions.

In this Jack Westoby Lecture, I will present some evidence about women in forest sciences, focusing on graduates and their professional life, perceptions and ideas for the future articulated by today’s female forestry students and about trends of women in leadership roles in forest sciences. I will draw from these to propose ideas for activities fostering women’s roles in forest sciences, in particular through international forest science networks.

Referring to Jack Westoby’s 1971 paper on forestry education, the basic argument of this Lecture is “not pleading for women” but “pleading for forestry” by providing an exploration of the state of the knowledge of these issues, as a starting point for discussion of pathways towards gender-balanced pictures of future forest science meetings.