Noting the significant lack of women in leadership positions in the forest sector, a group of women organized a space to specifically cultivate and empower women’s participation in forestry. Over the past few years, this group created the Women’s Forest Congress—“a forum to develop strategies and solutions for forests through a female lens”—and convened its inaugural event October 17-20, 2022 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Congress provided generous opportunities for connection and empathy, with storytelling as a core aspect of the event. Leading members of the WFC, including The Forest School’s alumna Jess Wikle ’18 MFS, collaboratively created the 2022 Women’s Forest Congress Declaration, which centers leadership for equity and inclusion, workforce opportunities, catalysts for change, supporting each other, and the greatest forest challenges. Rebecca Turner ‘00 MEM serves on WFC’s Steering Committee and Deborah Spalding ‘07 MF serves on the Advisory Council. The Forest School at YSE sent four current staff and students to participate in this historic event, whose thoughts are captured below.
Liz Felker ’19 MESc, Assistant Director, The Forest School & Associate Director, The Forests Dialogue
“WFC provided the space and time to reflect on what it means to be a female forester, what other peoples’ experiences have been, and what of those might be shared in my own experiences as former student and as a professional. I want to build on the momentum from the Congress to provide mentorship opportunities for women and other minority identities at The Forest School.”
Diana Satkauskas ’24 MF
“I was very excited to be able to participate in the founding event. It was so empowering to be surrounded by hundreds of women within the forest sector and listen to them share their stories. I was also able to gain valuable connections with other women Yale alumni. I’m excited to see how the Women’s Forest Congress will evolve over years to come!”
As a co-leader to the “Addressing Today’s Forest Challenges” working group, Jess Wikle ’18 MFS presents language crafted for the WFC Declaration during the Congress’ kickoff session.
Jules Chen ’24 MF
“The conference was an inspiring opportunity to hear and see women from different sectors within forestry. Even though the Congress was a great first step, I look forward to working to expand the impact of finding solutions to the issues being addressed in the declaration.”
Sara Santiago ’19 MF, Communications Manager, The Forest School
“When Liz and I realized there would be a Women’s Forest Congress this fall, we knew we needed to be there for this inaugural event. This was the first time I have ever participated in a women’s conference, and it was astounding to be in the midst of hundreds of people with only a few men in attendance. I was struck by how alumnae from the School were so in their element amongst their peers as leaders in the forest sector and were so excited to meet together as a TFS cohort on topics facing women in forestry.”
With support from the YSE Office of Development and Alumni Services, women forestry graduates from the School gathered together to discuss the conference, share experiences, and brainstorm next steps that would benefit TFS from the Congress.