An innovative Woodworking and Gender Seminar was hosted by Sylva Foundation on October 13, 2023.
More than 70 participants came together at the Sylva Wood Centre for a day of talks, workshops and discussions around gender equality in the woodworking industry. Initial feedback has focused on the seminar not just being a success in bringing together people from across the sector to discuss gender equality, but the breadth of stories and experience shared by everyone.
The seminar started with four remarkable talks from Sylva Wood School graduates and Summer School alumni: Beth Meehan, Katy Thompson, Hannah Girvan and Rachel Cox. They shared their diverse experiences of working in the woodworking sector, and everyone was impressed by their composure and candour, which set the perfect tone for the rest of the day.
Participants were then split into groups for three different activities: sharing positive experiences of gender diversity in the sector; what does an inclusive workplace look/feel like; and bridging the gap – prioritising activities of our future programme. Not only did participants have excellent suggestions and advice to improve gender diversity, but the activities were a great opportunity for people to get to know one another and share stories.
After an excellent lunch provided by social enterprise Damascus Rose Kitchen, and a guided walk in the Future Forest with Gabriel Hemery, Sylva CEO, everyone came together for the panel discussion with employers and industry professionals. Alice Blogg – Designer-Maker & Creative Director Arttus Interiors, Camilla McLean – Managing Director Matthew Cox, and Kay Chattun – Managing Director Lacaze London, shared advice and experience, and answered many questions ranging from highlighting the benefits of employing a diverse workforce to challenges of being pregnant in the workshop. This session was expertly chaired by Dr Lynn Jones. Meanwhile, Alys Bryan had the challenging task of summarising the day and drawing some conclusions which she rose to with aplomb.
We would like to say a big thank you to everyone involved in the Woodworking and Gender Seminar. Along with the Gender Equality Survey, this opportunity to learn and hear diverse stories will provide the foundations for our new programme of work to support an inclusive and accessible woodworking sector into the future.
We are especially grateful to Vastern Timber who awarded Sylva Foundation a grant as part of its 1% Woodland Tax programme in support of this seminar.