Wendy Necar: “More will follow in their footsteps…”

The final in our International Women's Day series, Wendy Necar opens up about her 20 years in forestry as RFS Communications Officer spreading the knowledge of our members and award winners, the changes that she's witnessed, and the challenges to come.

By Elle McAllister · March 8, 2024

1. What sparked your interest in forestry as a career path?

That came quite late on. I had worked as a journalist for local media, as a stringer for national media, in PR for a national energy supplier and then turned freelance working for a variety of clients when my children came along.

As the children grew up, I had more time to take stock of what I was really interested in. I took a BSc (Hons) in Countryside and Land Management while juggling freelance work and family, and then set about looking for work in the environment sector. Initially that was with a national marine mammal charity. One day a former colleague asked me whether I would be interested in applying with her for a job with the RFS. And the rest is history!

2. How have things changed for the better (or worse) regarding gender equality in forestry since you started?

Twenty years ago, I very rarely came across a woman who was working in forestry, or a student winning an award. Nowadays I am delighted to say that there are many fantastic women foresters and consultants. Lots of those winning our various RFS Awards are young women or women who are changing careers.

3. Which women have inspired or influenced you the most, and why?

That’s a hard one! So many amazing women across so many fields. Perhaps it is just easiest to name a group – the Suffragettes. Without them, I don’t think the opportunities that I have had would ever have come my way. They gave us a voice and that had opened so many doors for future generations.

4. Do you have a favourite memory or standout moment from your time working in forestry that you would like to share?

Again, I think I will have to be very general. I have met so many inspiring people who have a real desire to make sure that their knowledge and skills are shared. I have had some truly wonderful conversations under many a tree canopy and I have been blown away by the work of some researchers. There are always differences in opinion about how a woodland can be managed but there is an underlying common passion among woodland owners, that they should be managed for the best and for the future.

5. What hurdles have you faced as a woman in the forestry field, and how did you navigate them?

Coming into the sector later in life, I can honestly say that I personally have been very fortunate in not having to navigate many issues. However, I did become incandescent at a Forestry Show a few years ago when one stand was promoting its products with the use of female models who were not exactly clad in forestry wear. Clearly that company was still feeling that forestry was a male domain. I did challenge them! They were an exception though.

6. What kinds of support or changes would make the forestry profession more welcoming and empowering for women?

The women already working in forestry are the best advert for what can be achieved. Forestry offers a huge variety of jobs to suit such a vast spectrum of skills, interests and personalities. The more visible today’s women become, the more will follow in their footsteps and open new pathways.

7. Have you come across any stereotypes or misunderstandings about women in forestry, and how do you challenge those perceptions?

See answer to number 5! I can also add that in the early days it was not easy for women to find the sort of protective equipment needed. Shoes, gloves and other PPE were simply not made to our sizes and shapes! The fact that so much more out there is made for women is one measure of how far attitudes have shifted.

8. Are there any projects or achievements in your forestry career that you are especially proud of?

In recent years, forestry has moved out of the shadows to become a key player in mitigating and managing climate change. At the same time, the Royal Forestry Society has changed and developed. It has been an absolute privilege to promote all the fantastic work done by our Divisions, volunteers and staff in sharing knowledge and learning. We are reaching out to the very young and to the already very experienced. Forestry and woodland management is facing up to new challenges, looking to new ideas and to different demographics to find the answers. And that is very exciting to witness!

9. What will be the biggest challenge for the generation of women behind you?

Climate change anxiety is something that many of us experience. Those who work in forestry are in an almost unique position to help alleviate some of that anxiety.

10. What words of wisdom or encouragement would you offer to other women who are considering a career in forestry?

Whatever you want to do, go for it. Follow your heart!

Many thanks to Wendy for sharing her experiences from her long career in the RFS, as well as her ongoing support of so many in the forestry sector.

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