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Mairi Gougeon, Scottish Government Minister for Rural Affairs and the Natural Environment

Guest blog by Mairi Gougeon, Scottish Government Minister for Rural Affairs and the Natural Environment

I’ve always been an outdoors person – I love running and prefer to do so outside, even in the rain and wind! So I can completely understand the attraction of working in the great outdoors and with nature, even if it means putting up with the weather.

Campaigns like the one on #everydaysexism and to let “children be children” without artificial gender stereo-typing show there is still a need to ensure that girls and women are encouraged to use their talent and skills to seek jobs and make careers in traditional rural industries.

So on International Women’s Day 2020 it’s great to be able to tell people about the great strides women are making into sectors like forestry.

Forestry and Land Scotland is one of the organisations leading the way: while around one third of the 950-strong team at FLS are women- that proportion is growing all the time.

More young women are signing on as apprentice foresters, more women are taking management and policy-lead roles and more women who have trained in STEM subjects are bringing their expertise and insight to the organisation.

FLS is also working to change its culture. It has made a point of using gender neutral language in adverts, using more diverse imagery, and working with organisations such as Equate Scotland to reach out and help raise awareness amongst women of the career options and opportunities that forestry offers. It is starting to make a real difference and that is great, not just for FLS, but most importantly for girls and women who now have some great role models to follow.

Women such as:

Jo Ellis – Head of Planning and Environment: “I chose forestry because I was concerned about the loss of tropical forests and wanted to understand the more about why they were disappearing so that I could do something about it.  But having started working in the UK I quickly realised that our forests are also amazing, and that their sustainable management – in a way that conserves biodiversity, involves people and reduces timber imports – was incredibly interesting.  I would like to develop my career in a way that helps FLS to use forestry and land management to respond effectively to the twin crises of biodiversity loss and climate change.”

Sabrina Smith - Visitor Services Assistant, Galloway Forest Park: “I started as an Apprentice Craftsperson in April 2018 and am now a VS Assistant. It’s a great job for me because I love spending time outdoors, helping people get the most out of their visit and introducing schoolchildren to outdoor activities. So far, working with FLS has given me so many diverse opportunities and that looks set to continue this year, with mountain biking events and regional school cross-country events to organise!”

Forestry and Land Scotland offers a wide range of opportunities for young people and I hope that more businesses in forestry will follow their lead and encourage and enable more young women into the sector.