Women In Arboriculture

Justina Kraus Justina Kraus
Learn more about Justina Kraus.

There are so many reasons to be an ISA Certified Arborist in 2019. We are the ones that can mitigate development consequences and edge effects. We can retain trees, create beneficial wildlife snags rather than remove all the material, preserve old trees through pruning and cabling, design storm water runoff away from valuable trees through rain gardens, replant when removing trees, and plant natives and non-native species.  Wait, what – non-native? Yes! Know when a site has changed to a new condition and recommend the right plant in the right place. The urban forest is not like the native contiguous forest. People live in cities, and cities need trees. Urban foresters and ISA Certified Arborists are important for adaptable urban forests. (“A city without trees is dead. Alex Shigo”)

Do you ever ask yourself what it means to be a female arborist? Or perhaps, what your friend or wife goes through to practice Arboriculture? Historically, the Forestry and Arboriculture fields have been male dominated, and I feel that it is still male dominated. I climb like a girl because that’s what I am; those words in that order have generally been derogatory. But I am a girl. When I walk into a board room to lead a meeting, am the only female in the room, and I know the most about the trees and the stakeholders, do I have to consider my gender? When I’m on a consult or in charge of my job site with male homeowners and other male arborists, do I consider it? Because I run our male tree crew and our family with my husband, do I have to consider it? Well, the answer is yes and no.

Sometimes I do. Sometimes, more is expected of me than my husband in the same situation, but the flip side is that sometimes less is expected of me. At my company, I am not the strongest, I am the cleverest. So, my skills are used appropriately, just like all my crew. I rarely have to think of gender differences causing problems because I work with my husband, other professionals and we simply get the job done well. But I have had bids that creeped me out, when I was wishing I wasn’t there and a male colleague was. The worst was an elderly client listening to porn on his kindle, slow to turn it off so I had to hear it too. And he had weird roaming eyes. Graphic words in an electronic kindle voice was not sexy, and just made me incredibly uncomfortable. How would you have felt in my situation?

So, that is why sometimes I do miss other female collaboration and commiseration. What I need that is missing from my daily arboricultural-existence is to talk to someone else like me. I can go months without face-to-face contact with another female arborist. My opportunities to connect with a colleague are at PNW ISA classes, our annual PNW ISA conference or at regional Tree Climbing Competitions.  That is why I put on the Seattle Regional Tree Climbing Competitions, I volunteer on the Conference Planning Committees, I organize WIA events and I attend as many classes as I can.

I’m also thrilled to be part of the 2nd Annual Women’s Tree Climbing Workshop in Seattle, WA. It is happening again ladies! And there is an all new Advanced Tree Climbing Class too open to all genders. Check out the PNW ISA website and join me in sharing, learning, and connecting with other tree enthusiasts and professional arborists.

This is an important year for you to maintain or become an ISA Certified Arborist. Take a class and network with others. Compete or volunteer for a local tree climbing competition. The PNW ISA has classes that can hone your fruit pruning skills, your report writing skills and/or your tree appraisal ability.

And I hope to see you there!