International Women’s Day takes on even greater meaning in the middle of a global pandemic. The impact of gender bias and inequality has only grown as women have shouldered increasing burdens during these challenging times.

This year’s theme, “Choose to challenge,” is particularly relevant to SFI, because the SFI network is full of women leaders who are always up for a challenge. These leaders help show the value of SFI’s commitment to a diverse and resilient workforce. Building a diverse and resilient workforce is one of the ways SFI celebrates the principles behind International Women’s Day every day.

Some of the women leaders in our network were recently profiled in Project Learning Tree Canada’s “Day in the Life” series. You can learn more about their important work through these short videos:

This theme of resilience and diversity will be one of the key topics we will explore at the 2021 Virtual SFI Annual Conference. Join us May 12-14 and hear SFI’s women leaders discuss some of the recent milestones they have celebrated and the role that resiliency and diversity plays in their success.

Changing the Face of Forestry

It’s not just our network that is full of women leaders, we have them throughout our organization. There are several who have recently been recognized with awards or by representing their community in public office.

Rachel Lang, Project Learning Tree’s Manager of Education Products, was named one of the North American Association for Environmental Education’s (NAAEE) EE 30 Under 30 Class of 2020. Rachel is focused on overseeing IT infrastructure and developing new environmental education materials and youth resources. She strongly believes that effective educators must use materials and approaches that are inclusive.

Annie Perkins, Senior Director for Green Building and Supply Chain at SFI, is Minnesota’s Afton City Councilmember, Ward 1 Representative. She won reelection in 2020 through a landslide victory where she earned 63% of votes. One of her campaign pledges was to provide an avenue to advocate for unheard voices. At SFI, Annie works to advance partnerships to build sustainable supply chains. Annie’s passion for her local community and for sustainability on a global scale is built on a foundation of inclusivity and respect.

Jess Kaknevicius, SFI’s Vice-President of Education, has always believed in the power of education to support diversity, equity, and inclusion. She earned the Susan Wiecek Forestry Education Award earlier this year from Forests Ontario. This award recognizes individuals or organizations for outstanding contributions to forestry education in Ontario. The award committee noted Jess’s tireless work supporting youth education for more than a decade. Jess also founded Women in Wood. It was created to bring together passionate women from across Canada and around the world to share their love for forests.

Kathy Abusow, President and CEO of SFI, was recognized with an Honorary Membership Award from the Society of American Foresters. Kathy was recognized for her outstanding contribution to forestry by her peers. The award specifically noted her role as a woman leader: “Kathy is a strong voice for gender equality and is a mentor to other women in the forestry sector.”

Under Kathy’s leadership, Project Learning Tree Canada was founded in 2017. A key priority for PLT Canada is to develop a diverse and resilient workforce for the forest and conservation sector. Since 2018, PLT Canada has placed more than 3,500 youth in Green Jobs. Notably, the PLT Canada team was able to achieve gender balance in the placements, despite forestry’s reputation as a male-dominated sector.

Kathy’s commitment to gender equality is also embodied in the gender balance of SFI’s team and her support for SFI’s diversity, equity, and inclusion working group. Kathy is also focused on elevating the role of women in the forest and conservation sector through support of important initiatives. She serves on the National Steering Committee for Gender Equity in the Forest Sector in Canada, is a founder of and co-chaired the Women for Nature network of Nature Canada, has led, moderated and spoken at well-respected international forums focused on diversity including the Women in Green Power event at GreenBuild each year. She is also a supporter of the Women’s Forest Congress. Kathy has also led the scope expansion of Project Learning Tree to focus on building a diverse and resilient workforce through diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives including skills development, employee and employer supports and mentorship programs..

Today, SFI is reaffirming our commitment to elevating the role of women when it comes to the critical work we are doing to ensure the sustainability of our planet. SFI has built a diverse team and today we are recognizing the women on our team:

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Kathy Abusow, President and CEO

Mirna Abdo, Manager, Communications

Sheden Alsaaty, Senior Director, Strategic Partnerships

Carley Archibald, Conservation Programs Intern

Nadine Block, SVP, Community and Government Relations

Vanessa Bullwinkle, Sr. Director, PLT Communications and Marketing

Jennifer Byerly, Manager, Communications and Marketing

Maria Chiarella, Coordinator, Youth Network

Rachel Dierolf, Senior Manager, Chain of Custody and Label Use

Jennifer Farant, Executive Assistant

Courtney Guillen, Coordinator, Statistics and Label Use

Monika Gurzenski, Director, Marketing and Design

Rachel Hamilton, Sr. Coordinator, Conservations Partnerships

Julia Hershberger, Sr. Manager, Operations

Madhuri Jani, Green Jobs Coordinator

Jess Kaknevicius, Vice-President, Education

Lydia Kidane, Coordinator, PLT Sales and Marketing

Jane Kim, Sr. Manager, Finance

Rachel Lang, Manager PLT Education Products

Catherine Langille, Indigenous Youth Opportunities Intern

Ana Leirner, Manager, Professional Development and Instructional Design

Brittany Lodge, Youth Programs Coordinator

Amandine Nonga, Coordinator, Business Operations

Annie Perkins, Senior Director, Green Building and Supply Chain

Christine Song, Education Intern

Mila Snejinscaia, Business Director

Jaclyn Stallard, Director, Curriculum

The forest sector and SFI-certified forests and products are powerful tools to achieve shared goals such as climate action, reduced waste, conservation of biodiversity, education of future generations, and sustainable economic development.

When women’s voices are central to achieving these shared goals, we all win.