The Women in Tree Care (WITC) pre-conference symposium continued its momentum at TCI EXPO ’22 in Charlotte, North Carolina. The event included a full day of education, breakout sessions and networking. The symposium has become a regular event at TCI EXPO and an important workshop for many in the industry. It aims to provide targeted and relevant information to attendees interested in improving personally and professionally.
This year’s event did all of that and more, according to some of those who helped organize it. The Women in Tree Care symposium was sponsored by Bartlett Tree Experts, The Davey Tree Expert Company and Rainbow Ecoscience. It was hosted at the Bartlett Tree Research Laboratories and Arboretum in Charlotte.
“Many women of tree care congregated in November of 2022 to celebrate and discuss successes, challenges, strategies and lessons learned within an industry we are all extremely passionate about,” says Maggie Volchko. Volchko is an ISA Certified Arborist and regional recruiter with Davey Tree, an accredited, 50-year TCIA member company based in Kent, Ohio.
“Weather conditions were on our side,” says Volchko. “We spent the day engaging in sessions as well as enjoying the sunshine and networking outdoors. It was a refreshing treat for arborists otherwise confined to conference sessions for the week!”
“I can go on and on about this stuff,” says Jennifer McPhee, who was a lead organizer of the event. McPhee is co-owner of Harrison McPhee Inc., an accredited, nine-year TCIA member company based in Millis, Massachusetts. She also is a newly inaugurated TCIA board member. “Main points – great event, can’t please everyone or cover it all in a day, but response was excellent.”
“We took some chances on topics that covered everything from team building to personal health,” says McPhee.
“The speaker lineup was awesome and engaging,” says Alison Herrell. Herrell is an arborologist with Rainbow Ecoscience, a 25-year TCIA corporate member company based in Minnetonka, Minnesota. “I thought the panel of women in arboriculture was extremely inspiring. It’s amazing to hear the stories of how women got to where they are within the industry and the various experiences they’ve had and obstacles they’ve all overcome.”
“Some of my favorite topics of discussion highlighted team building and employee development,” says Volchko. “As an event sponsor, Davey Tree led a session on workforce recruiting. TreesCharlotte also presented their platform for progress, sharing some of their program successes and management tips for fostering healthy trees within their city.”
“This year, the agenda included a variety of topics that would appeal to everyone, regardless of their role (or gender), a theme we plan to continue in the future,” says Nicole Belhumeur. Belhumeur is an ISA Certified Arborist, holds her Tree Risk Assessment Qualification credential and is a Certified Pesticide Applicator. She also is manager of recruitment, retention and development in Gorham, Maine, for Bartlett Tree Experts. Bartlett is an accredited, 48-year TCIA member company based in Stamford, Connecticut.
“Jen McPhee pulled together a fantastic group of speakers,” says Belhumeur. “These included two who do not work within the industry, but who were able to connect with the group on health and wellness and employee engagement.”
“One of the highlights was hearing from a TreesCharlotte representative who spoke about their mission to grow and diversify Charlotte’s urban forest,” says Belhumeur. “It was exciting to hear from local arborists about the impact they are having on the industry and their community.
“Another highlight was at lunch,” says Belhumeur. “It was so great to see everyone together, building relationships and taking advantage of the opportunity to network.”
“At the end of the day, our groups broke into various roundtable discussions to network and dive into topics of interest,” says Volchko.
“People love the chance to speak, so roundtables are definitely popular” adds McPhee.
“The small-group discussions were empowering, and I was able to make a lot of meaningful connections,” says Alison Herrell.
“I have been to many women-in-arboriculture events over the years, and this particular event far exceeded my expectations,” says Herrell.
“Women are a force to be reckoned with in the tree care industry, and I’m excited to see how this network continues to grow and develop,” says Volchko. “The workshop was a day of sharing stories, and I also see it as an opportunity to further education and share resources as we continue to expand.”
“People are looking for office-skills development in the future, which I see as a great opportunity for expansion (beyond focus on female production arborists),” says McPhee.
“We encourage more men to participate,” adds McPhee. “Ultimately, we’d like the need for WITC to be obsolete, due to progress in equity and inclusion. Until then, we will focus on topics that apply to all but may more universally appeal to WITC.”
“I think we all are eager for the day when all arborists are viewed equally and have the same access to advancement and training opportunities, and we no longer need to have a pre-conference event,” says Belhumeur. “Meetings like this are helping us get another step closer to this goal.”
“I think it was a perfect place to address some of the lack of diversity in our industry and use it to connect people of all shapes, sizes, colors and genders to work together to fuel positive change, growth and professionalism,” says Herrell. “Our community is truly what makes our industry great, and this was the perfect opportunity to build that community.”