to the industry in general, work on internal development programs to help everyone continue to gain new skills and work their way through the com- pany, and create content for our social media, including starting a blog and an internal company newsletter.” Clineff’s progression in the land- scape industry showcases a career path that often isn’t even on the radar of many women in the U.S. Traditionally, landscaping has been a male-domi- nated industry, with female employees making up only 10.6 percent of work- ers in landscaping services in 2018, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. There are a number of factors that play into that statistic. As with many other industries, the lawn and land- scape industry is still catching up when it comes to gender equality.


“If I were a woman trying to break into the landscape industry, I would be inclined to look for other women working in the sector I was interested in and the companies they work for or run. In addition, an industrious and ambitious woman might decide to start her own business, become a certified Woman-Owned Small Business and go after some government contracts.” —Shereen Hughes

CHALLENGING PREVAILING BIASES Societal expectations placed on women have changed drastically during the past several generations. But even as more and more women joined the workforce in the 20th century, they still faced (and continue to face) challenges in an environment created to suit male preferences, personalities, work styles and comfort. Even today, many women are subject to ridicule, sexist attitudes and harass- ment. Companies still struggle to meet basic needs of female workers such as appropriately sized uniforms and equip- ment or access to women’s restrooms. In landscaping and other labor-centric industries, there is still a prevailing stereotype that women are not strong enough to do the required work. “There’s a general bro-culture, but that’s not limited to landscaping—it’s everywhere, and every industry is at a different stage of figuring this out,” says Trish Higgins, partner, Chenmark Holdings, Portland, Maine. “For in- stance, there’s lots of drinking at social events, inappropriate behavior or ‘jokes’ in the workplace, no female bathrooms, a lack of awareness about childcare, lack of maternity leave benefits, etc. The only thing that might be specific to landscaping is the perception that a woman cannot be in the field because she is not strong enough, which is simply laughable.”

Respect, as in any industry, is a deciding factor for many women when it comes to choosing a career in the

24 The Landscape Professional // May/June 2019

SPEAK OUT In its survey,


NALP asked women to finish this

sentence: “Being a professional woman working in the landscape industry means…” Here’s what they said:

“My contribution is counted.”

“I have to be better and tip toe around some men.”

 

arted and own my company, yet … everywhere I go, even amongst all female peers from different industries, people think my husband owns my company even when I outright say that

“I st 

I started and own it. There are fewer options for female uniforms, and even customers

immediately look to male companions when asking questions at trade fairs or speaking engagements. I look forward to climbing over these hurdles, but it is frustrating.”

“Being on top of your game and fighting stereotypes in the workplace. It means you have to always try to represent women well as a

group and speak up when others start saying things that are sexist, even if well-meaning.”

landscape industry. Toxic environments drive retention rates down for female employees in companies that are un- able or unwilling to address the issue. “We need to start thinking about respecting each other for our abilities and hiring based on skills and talents and respecting everybody at their own levels,” says Shereen Hughes, Virginia coordinator for the Chesapeake Bay Landscape Professional (CBLP) Pro- gram. “I did do a construction job for a while—soil testing. And after a week of guys giving me crap about my boots that were too clean or that I wasn’t strong enough, I quit. I’m intelligent and capable and strong enough to do the job, but I don’t feel like working in this culture.”

A SHIFT IN ATTITUDE Mindsets are beginning to change, and now there’s a spotlight shining on inequity and gender biases that empower female workers to push back and vie for equal treatment. The landscape industry is a part of this momentum, with more female workers than ever before in its history. But it still has a long way to go. “As choice has expanded for women as it pertains to different careers, women who hadn’t before considered landscaping and forestry positions are now opening up to the possibilities of doing this work,” says Sarah Lillie An- derson, senior manager of Tree Equity Programs at American Forests, located in Washington, D.C. “Just as men are increasingly seeking careers that have historically been more nurturing like nursing, women are also getting into more physically demanding careers. Today it’s possible to do work that one is passionate about, regardless of our societal narrative about who would be the best fit for the work.” The rise of the millennial workforce has contributed to the shift in men- tality. The generation grew up with more working mothers than previous generations, and expectations that no matter their gender, they have unlim- ited opportunities for a career that fits their interests. “Women, now more than ever, want careers that pay well, workplaces that value them and opportunities for contin- ued growth and development,” Anderson says. “Those of us who are passionate about the environment, who are creative and like to work with our hands are

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