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Throughout my years in the tree planting industry, I didn’t always feel a sense of inclusivity or psychological safety. While this is certainly changing, there is much room for growth. This piece reflects actions and behaviours I’d like to see normalized within the workplace to create a more inclusive culture.

In my experience within the silviculture industry, leadership teams tend to be homogenous, with members from similar backgrounds and life experiences. Lack of diversity means there are particular challenges and hardships that this group hasn’t had to confront or even consider in their decision-making process. When it comes to equity, diversity, and inclusion work, it's important for leaders to learn:

  • How their policies or actions impact employees with different backgrounds, cultures, and identities.

  • How to create a safe and inclusive work environment for everyone.

  • And why all of this is important.

Without this knowledge, there can be a lack of psychological safety, lower engagement and productivity, and increased turnover. By deliberately prioritizing these often overlooked pieces of inclusivity, we can create a more supportive and empowered culture for all workers regardless of their gender, background, or identity.

Menstrual Supplies in Every First-Aid Kit and Every Vehicle

Insert story here about someone getting their period after their first bag up on a rain day with not-a-one tampon in sight, only cis-men at their cache, and two kilometres out from the parked trucks (where they might consider asking over the radio if anyone has a tampon). This person bled into their underwear, pants, and socks all day, then had to walk out and drive the crew an hour and a half to get home. They sat on their emergency sweater to not bleed into the seat. If you asked them, they might tell you this was one of their worst days out of an eight-year career.

Ideally, menstruating folks have tampons on them for these types of situations. But the reality is that while tree planting, fatigue creates many opportunities for not thinking things through and forgetting essential items. They could have avoided this situation had there been tampons in the truck.

Asking for Help

If I had a dollar for every time I’ve seen someone refuse to ask for help while struggling because they think they “should” be able to do it on their own, I’d have a lot of dollars. I count myself on this list of someone's because asking for help is hard. Asking for help is vulnerable. But vulnerability is strength.

When you ask for help, especially in a leadership position, you show those around you that asking for help is allowed, encouraged, and will result in support.

Taking a Mental Health Day

Life is long. And hard. It is also short and beautiful, and opposite things can be true. Taking a day off for early-days tendonitis or a sore knee is becoming encouraged in our industry. However, taking a day off to support your mental health is still uncommon in most industries. It is up to the leadership team to set the culture around this. It took me a long time to stand up for my needs.

I was recently diagnosed with endometriosis, a condition in which tissue similar to the lining of the uterus grows outside of it, causing intense pain. This explains a long history of monthly pain during my period. While tree planting, I never felt like I could take a day off due to menstruation. While I was able to manage the physical pain with over-the-counter pain medication, planting on these days took a toll on my mental health. It wasn’t until my sixth season of planting that I permitted myself to take time off during this painful time. My mental health improved significantly, knowing that I was prioritizing my wellness over production and giving myself time to rest and recover.

Glennon Doyle wrote in her book Untamed, “I’d rather disappoint other people than disappoint myself.” I think our workplace cultures would improve if we focused more on this. However, if someone is taking a lot of time off for their mental health, in that case, it might be better for them to leave and get support given the seasonal nature of the work. Still, it is becoming common (especially since the onset of the pandemic) for companies to provide employees with personal days to support their wellness (both physical and mental). I'd love to see this permeate into the silviculture sector.

Talking About Harassment, Consent, and Mental Health

Not just during orientation when everyone’s brains are jam-packed with information but consistently and openly throughout the season. There are a lot of ways to integrate these topics into the season:

  • Hosting workshops facilitated by subject matter experts or passionate folks.

  • Putting up posters with engaging and relevant information.

  • Encouraging creativity and self-expression, check out these fantastic zines?

  • Sharing psychological safety information or concerns during a crew safety meeting.

These are just some ways to integrate these topics into the season. A friendly reminder here that leadership sets the tone for the culture. Having leaders be capable and confident in talking about these things is enormous for the emotional well-being of the community.

Asking People About Their Pronouns

It is okay to be at different stages of learning about gender diversity. What is not okay is intentional discrimination or hurtful words. Making mistakes is okay. Acknowledge, apologize, and work to improve. If gender diversity overwhelms you, educating yourself is a significant first step. Education like, did you know that gender identity and gender expression are protected groups under the human rights code? Let's support our gender diverse friends by respecting their pronouns. Asking someone for their pronouns is cool, it's kind, it's important.

Avoid asking someone from the gender-diverse community to educate you unless they seem open to that. Often, folks from systemically marginalized communities are burdened with the task of educating the more privileged groups around them not for educational purposes but often as a way to claim their identity. It's incredibly exhausting. There are a lot of great resources out there, including books, podcasts, and youtube videos. An open mind is a beautiful thing.

Encouraging Black and Indigenous folks, People of Colour, the Queer community, and Women into leadership positions

If you don’t see yourself represented in the leadership team around you, chances are you won’t consider yourself for one of those roles. When folks from systemically marginalized communities see themselves represented in the leadership team, it can empower them to see themselves in these roles. When communities feel represented by the leadership team, they are more likely to trust the team. This can lead to better communication, collaboration, and overall culture.

Representation signals a commitment to equity and demonstrates that inclusion is valued and encouraged. Having leaders with different backgrounds brings diverse perspectives and experiences. Diversity amongst the leadership team can lead to better decision-making, problem-solving, and creativity. Promoting inclusivity at all levels of the organization, especially the leadership team, can ensure everyone’s voices and perspectives are heard and valued.

Revisiting Training Between Spring and Summer

Onboarding and orientation are essential parts of acclimating an individual to a new company. Many companies are starting to do a better job of this initial process at the beginning of their season. But many companies need that same process repeated as summer and fall contracts begin. Typically a new contract brings new employees. This means that many new employees still need essential training at the beginning of summer contracts to establish foundational knowledge of the company's safety system. Doing orientation again at the beginning of a summer contract sets the tone for safety. It is also an excellent refresher for folks who have been with you since the spring and may have started slipping into zombie mode (IMO, everyone at this point).


By normalizing these aspects of inclusivity, employers and leaders can create a culture that values diversity, inclusivity, and employee well-being, leading to a more positive and productive workplace for everyone. While many of these points are things leaders can implement and advocate for, anyone within the industry can think about them and work towards implementing them, no matter their position.

It helps me to think about more significant, seemingly insurmountable issues as boulders I am trying to push up a hill. When I try pushing by myself, it is heavy and hard. It is easier when we all help.


Inclusive Steps for a Psychologically Safer Workplace Culture

Psychological safety at work is gaining recognition, but there are key aspects of creating an inclusive culture that are often missed.

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