Women working in the forestry industry

By: Patrick Cox

Women working in the forestry industry Women working in the forestry industry
Women working in the forestry industry Women working in the forestry industry

Most women get involved with the logging industry because their husbands, partners or boyfriends are already involved, although there will be a few out there who decide they want to be a bushwoman on their own accord.

Toilet facilities are limited on logging sites so the guys just walk to the edge of the skid site and relieve themselves, what do the women do? Does the contractor have to supply a portable loo? I do not think so, this will probably be edited out [it wasn’t – Ed], but the reality is women do not fit into the total physicality of logging and as long as we are so physically different this will never change.

Logging crews through the mid-’50s to mid-’80s were male-dominated. Chainsaws available in those days were not like the high-revving lightweight saws of today. Old crop Radiata considered super trees in comparison to the crops felled today. One of the most popular saws of choice was the McCulloch super pro 125 and using these brutes was like cutting butter, from memory weighing in at 16kg without bar and chain. These saws needed a bit of muscle to throw around each day – here’s where I stick my neck out and say it’s not a saw designed for women to use.

There are many facets within the industry where women play a vital role in keeping the logs heading to their destination. Since the first native tree that was felled in the development of early New Zealand, women were on the scene to support for their husbands as camp cooks in the Kauri logging camps. They would have been tough times camped out under canvases surrounded by hardened loggers swinging axes and using crosscut handsaws.

Women Logging3

In today’s world, women are heavily involved, whether by choice or just necessity. The logger working for wages and just paying the mortgage comes home and tells the wife that he is going to buy a logging machine and go contracting, because he has been offered a contract and likes the idea of working for himself.

Speaking from experience, I ignored the advice of the new business partner and my accountant because I thought I knew best and it cost me many thousands of dollars. I learnt a hard lesson, sometimes we cannot see the wood for the trees and an eye from the perimeter sees more that you do, we have two ears to listen with and one mouth to talk. The theory is listening twice as much as you speak could save you a lot of money.

The physical and safety risks are more transparent in today’s age due to technology so maybe women are a little more conscious of what the male business partner does every day in the bush. For the ordinary employee, the risks are higher and the wives and partners of these young bushman who have young families need to be strong.

Women play a vital role in the logging industry, you will find them everywhere – driving logging trucks; in the dispatch office; dispatching trucks to the crews; in harvest planning for forest owners; and running large logging companies from behind the scenes. They are involved in drug testing, safety and first aid, and as much as I opposed women in the industry from the physical side of it, they are deeply involved no matter what and it will stay that way.

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