Continuing with our theme of getting to know the people behind Arbor Forest, we’re shining a light on some of the hard-working women who keep the company running smoothly – and find out more about some of the work the business is doing to improve diversity at all levels.
Here, our HR business partner Emma Colvin, our sawmill supervisor Natalia Kecinska, health and safety advisor, Deborah Wordsworth, and general operative Dorata Wolinska tell us what makes Arbor Forest a great place to work for women, and how they think the timber industry as a whole can support a more gender-balanced workforce.
EMMA COLVIN – HR business partner
What first attracted you to the role at Arbor Forest Products?
The opportunity to join the business in a brand-new role and work with so many different people all on one site. In my previous role I was field-based, so it has been such a pleasure working in one place where you can really get to know and work closely with colleagues. I’ve always felt welcomed and supported, even within a male dominated team. A lot has changed in the last five years and it’s exciting to see how fast the company is growing and developing and how our workforce is continuing to grow and diversify with it.
How would you describe your experience of working at Arbor Forest Products?
It’s been great getting to know and working alongside both our well-established and newer members of the team. Everyone has been so supportive from when I first joined and as I’ve continued to develop within my role. A lot has changed in the last five years and it’s exciting to see how fast the company is growing and developing.
You’ve worked with Arbor Forest Products to introduce a new Respect and Dignity at Work workshop, which aims to promote equality and build a positive working environment by raising awareness of inclusion and diversity across the board. What impact do you think this will have on new and existing staff?
I designed this course to help colleagues reflect on the behaviours they display in the workplace and how these may affect others. By doing so I hope to support and maintain a positive working environment for everyone.
NATALIA KECINSKA – Sawmill supervisor
What’s your experience of working in the sawmill at AFP?
I enjoy working at Arbor Forest Products – as with everything, it took me some time to adjust to the dynamics and get to know the people. Being a woman in this position was something that was new to the existing employees, too. I believe I have succeeded at working together with my team to ensure mutual respect and teamwork from both sides.
How do you think the timber industry could attract a more diverse workforce?
I would say companies could do more to hire a more diverse workforce. I am not saying hire a diverse workforce for the sake of it – of course you should hire the best candidate for the job – but it would be nice to see more women, people of colour, etc, on the shop floor. Introducing policies such as offering flexible working or part-time work would help with getting more women on board.
What impact do you think the new Respect and Dignity at Work workshop might have for you and your colleagues?
I believe it will have a positive impact on the workforce, but I also believe it will have a greater (positive) impact on some than on others. In my role, we work as a team not just making sure that production goes smoothly but also that everyone acts respectfully towards one another. I am Polish and a woman in a male-dominated business, so I have experienced what it’s like to be excluded – that’s why it is very important for me to ensure the industry puts a stop to this kind of behaviour.
DEBORAH WORDSWORTH – Health and safety advisor
The timber industry is generally seen as being a male-dominated space – is that true, or have you had a different experience?
Manufacturing in general tends to be a male-orientated industry and women are still rarely to be seen in managerial roles. It would be good to know how many women are actually applying for such roles in the first place, as that would give us a clearer picture of whether women are not interested in the industry, or if they are being turned off or turned away.
How would you describe your own experience from working at Arbor Forest Products?
I have always worked within male-dominated workplaces; it’s not always an easy route for some women, even more so in an historically underrepresented profession like Health and Safety. You definitely need an understanding, fair, approachable yet strong personality to succeed in Health and Safety.
I am pleased to have been given the support and trust of my manager to be able to set my own action plans, through collaboration with him I’m certain the position will be a success.
Melanie Carr – our group health and safety officer – and I have talked about health and safety positions in general and how they can on occasion feel a lonely and isolated place, so it’s great we instantly got on and we often bounce ideas off each other! Of course, it’s a must to ensure the importance of relationship-building right across the site and I’m meeting more people every day and learning more about the business in general.
What do you think the timber industry could do to attract a more diverse workforce?
Apprenticeships are often difficult to find yet they offer great training opportunities for the next generation – and Arbor Forest has a strong record for outreach in this area. Working in partnerships with local schools and colleges to promote the industry as a diverse working environment would raise knowledge and applications.
DOROTA WOLINSKA – General operative
Do you think of the timber industry as a male-dominated space? What’s your experience of working in this sector?
I wouldn’t call the timber industry ‘male dominated’ – yes, there are lots of men however in some cases, women are more dominant than men, whether that’s in the office, on the yard, or even the factory floor. Working at Arbor Forest, I have had a very positive experience: I’ve never felt neglected as a female employee, I have always been supported and have experienced lots of understanding from the company.
What attracted you to your role with Arbor Forest Products?
I like the calm environment here at AFP. This type of atmosphere allows me to concentrate and get on with achieving my goals, and means that I can focus on increasing my knowledge of the job and my experience, which is what I really want from the job.
Finally, what would you do to attract a diverse workforce to the sector?
The timber industry should embrace social media more! For people of my generation, social media has such a huge impact on our lives, so to help attract a younger, more diverse workforce the timber sector needs to be present and active there as well.