Article written by: Ida Rehnström

Anakarina Pérez Oropeza, Strategic Advisor and Global Advocacy Lead for FSC International, opened the session on gender and diversity within FSC, by introducing the work being done on the FSC Diversity and Gender Strategic Framework. She presented the first steps being implemented and explained that the framework provides a roadmap for FSC from now until 2026 to address diversity and gender within the FSC system and FSC as an organization – including dimensions such as regional and geographical background, age, sexual orientation, race and ethnicity, disability, socio-economic status, education, language, religion, beliefs, family/marital status, and others.

Martha Nuñez (Individual member, social south) provided an overview of the history of FSC'S efforts and Janne Naraka, Chair of the Board Strategic Planning Committee explained how the framework is connected to the FSC Global Strategy 2021-2026.

Linda Fienberg, FSC Board Gender Representative, emphasized the role of forest stewards to build forest resilience explaining that their role, rights, and efforts are not properly valued. As 1 billion people globally are dependent on forests, 13-18 million of them are working within the formal forest sector. But the surprising fact is the informal number of an estimated 41 million people working in the informal timber sector (not including most Non-Timber Forest Products) - the majority of them being women. In other words, women are already forest stewards. She highlighted that the Strategic Framework aims at expanding the role of forest stewardship and the multifunctionality of forests so that diversity & gender mainstreaming is an essential precondition.

Linda also underlined that diversity and gender are two parallel things to be worked on, but that talking about gender on its own has importance. She gave a rundown of the latest green paper and statistics on diversity and gender in forests and highlighted four key focus areas. “We found major structural & systemic challenges for introducing gender balance into forests” she said.

So as steps are being taken within FSC International to clarify where and how FSC can implement the needed actions on equality, Linda reminded us that this will be a continued process, where; “We are conscious that we need to take steps and some of these will be simply recognizing unequal gender roles and how we deal with these”.

Wrong gender, wrong age….

FSC International’s Director General, Kim Carstensen took to stage: “What this adds” he said, “that we didn’t have before, is an overall big picture of what it is we’re talking about and what it is that we want to move towards.”

He continued to talk more about the importance of also looking internally in FSC for that change in gender and diversity balance; "One thing we will be working on is our imbalance at the senior leadership level” Kim said, making the room laugh with his comment: "I'm wrong on all dimensions, right? Wrong age, wrong gender, wrong ethnicity, probably a couple of other things too.”

On a serious note, he continued to explain how FSC will introduce a Senior Gender Manager to help understand where to make changes in terms of the Secretariat, but also to do dedicated work on diversity and gender equality in FSC standards around the globe.

Why is it so difficult to engage women in forest work?

One of the most moving cases shared during the session was from Nelly Arroyo who is the manager of an Ecuadorian bamboo firm, Allpabambú. Her organization started out with the notion that to engage women in FM and COC was mostly about opening opportunities and ensuring the right education. But one after another the women they engaged ended up quitting their jobs – but why? According to Nelly: “The women did not lack physical capacity to work here, they could carry heavy bamboo too. What they lacked was mental capacity in terms of families, having to go straight from work to deal with family pressures at home. So, the women just gave up”.

The session included the participation of a group of students from the International Forestry Students Association (IFSA) who joined online and on-site. The presentation and poster by Theresa Klara Loch and Barbara Oellerer entitled ‘Calling for gender-aware and inclusive practices in forest education - an open letter by IFSA’ was highly praised by FSC’s leadership who highlighted the essential role of youth to advance FSC’s mission.

The session ended with sharing knowledge, ideas and suggestions, some including stricter definitions on gender in standards, the importance of representation and leadership and use of local context when working with the normative framework. Based on the presentation and engagement from members of all origins and ages, the future for FSC in terms of diversity and gender balance does look brighter.

Get involved!

As a member you can actively engage in FSC’s efforts for diversity and gender mainstreaming as mentioned by Linda Fienberg.

Download the Strategic Framework on Diversity and Gender from the FSC Members' Portal.