WOLFS Club works to expand opportunities for women in Forestry

The forestry sector is overwhelmingly male dominated, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. As of 2020, approximately 75 percent of the industry is male.

Women of Louisiana Forestry and Supporters, or WOLFS, is a student organization at Louisiana Tech University designed to provide support for female students who are pursuing a career in forestry.

For women in forestry, having a support system in an overwhelmingly male field can be crucial to their success.

“Women are a minority group, both in the forestry profession as well as students here. Less than 20 percent of our student population is female within our academic program,” said Dr. Laura Sims, Assistant Professor of Agricultural Sciences and Forestry and adviser for WOLFS. “It’s good to have a support network with each other, both while you’re here as well as when you go off into your career.”

Connections and support within the industry can help make it easier for women in forestry to make successful careers.

“I’ve worked in the forestry field for at least a year now as an intern,” said Kaitlyn Mondello, WOLFS president. “Even in interviews for internships you get comments from the men interviewing you like, ‘You know you have to work in the field right,’ ‘This isn’t an inside job,’ or ‘Are you sure you can handle working outside in the woods by yourself?’”

Other members of the club echoed having a similar experience. Phaedra Starks, a senior Forestry major, said the biggest issue she’s faced as a woman in forestry has been doubt.

“As a man you’ll always second guess a woman’s opinion, especially in the field of forestry,” Starks said. “You have to work double time to get your opinions and your facts situated to be accepted in a room full of men as a woman, especially as a woman who is a minority.”

Minorities make up an even smaller percentage of the forestry sector. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 2.2 percent of the industry is made up of minorities.

Sims said the goal for the organization is not to change the fact that the forestry business has more males represented, it’s about women who are within the industry getting a fair shot. The support offered by a club like WOLFS can be very useful for the women within it.

“All of the young women who have been in WOLFS and have graduated have gone off and gotten careers in forestry or gone into graduate school,” Sims said.

This story was written by Communication student Brennan Hilliard.