By Katy Thostenson
How often have you been at a woodland owner workshop or visited a property and heard a woman who co-owns land with her husband or brother say “I’m with him”? In large part due to forestry being a male-dominated field, women do not feel empowered to ask questions or take an active role in managing their land. And yet, women are often responsible for managing their land finances, and they commonly outlive their husbands and make the final management decisions that affect the future of their woods.
Emily S. Huff, Assistant Professor at Michigan State University, conducted interviews with leaders from seven Women Owning Woodlands (WOW) networks across the U.S. to learn about the barriers and recipes for success developing programs for women woodland owners. Taken from Huff’s Research in Brief, here are two key takeaways to improve your outreach to women woodland owners:
- Infuse your event with informal social opportunities. Women participants place just as much importance on building social connections as on learning about their woods. Design more informal and comfortable events that provide opportunities for women to build relationships with and learn about their woods from both their peer women woodland owners and local professionals. Open events with icebreakers, create time to exchange stories, share a meal, and emphasize the social nature of the event on flyers.
- Recruit attendees through personal networks. Marketing the event to effectively recruit women is just as important as designing the event to resonate with women. Recruitment is most successful through word of mouth, via local newsletters, and by distributing flyers through local groups (e.g. churches, clubs). Through interviews, Huff learned that women are more likely to attend an event that is advertised to be women-dominated and welcome for women of all knowledge and skill levels.
Research in Brief: Huff, E.S. (2017). A national perspective on Women Owning Woodlands (WOW) networks. Journal of Extension, 55(2), 1-7.