Women in Tree Care and DEI Are Part of the Fabric of TCIA

A grassroots event took place at TCI EXPO ’17 in Baltimore, Maryland. Led by TCIA members, a group of women and others came together in a way that wasn’t as prevalent then as it is now, and the first TCIA Women in Tree Care Forum came to life.

TCIA’s Winter Management Conference ’24
These women participated in a Women in Tree Care Poolside Fiesta, sponsored by SavATree, during TCIA’s Winter Management Conference ’24 in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, in mid-February. All photos courtesy of Jordan Tielmann.

The speakers and roundtable facilitators engaged participants, and the ensuing energy fueled their desire to continue the movement. They discussed ideas and issues and agreed to build a community. Participants were able to connect and forge relationships and bonds that have grown stronger over the years.

Members and staff continued to meet at other industry events, including Winter Management Conference in Maui, Hawaii, in February 2018. “This was a passion project for many of our members and staff when it started,” says Amy Tetreault, TCIA executive vice president. “It began organically, and we are so thrilled that we are now able to allocate the proper resources and team members to really level this program up.”

Finding direction

The group formulated a mission statement. Build a strong network that facilitates mentorship, education and support for women and gender minorities, furthering their presence and advancement in the tree care industry.

Then it established and defined its core values:

  • Inclusive: We are an inclusive network, focused on gender minorities and partnering with supporters and advocates regardless of gender.
  • Positive Intent: We work with a positive intent, approaching our mission with open minds and
    forward-looking expectations.
  • Solution-Focused: We are solution-focused, allowing our progress to move forward with clear goals, relevant actions and measured success.
Mike Tilford, CTSP, with SavATree
Mike Tilford, CTSP, with SavATree, and TCIA’s Erin (Demers) Aaron at WMC ’24. “Diversity is a core value at SavATree,” says Tilford.

Fast forward to 2024

Fast forward, and the initiative is alive and thriving today. Women in Tree Care (WITC) events are ongoing and available to anyone who is interested in learning and incorporating more inclusive practices into their personal and professional lives. TCIA WITC events are a mainstay at the annual TCIA Winter Management Conference and at TCI EXPO.

TCI EXPO events include a WITC day filled with roundtable events and speakers focused on diversity, equity and inclusion.

At Winter Management Conference ’24 in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, February 11 – 15, a WITC networking event was sponsored by SavATree, a 39-year TCIA member company based in Bedford Hills, New York. “Diversity is a core value at SavATree, along with DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) advocacy in the greater tree care industry,” says Mike Tilford, CTSP, director of general tree care at SavATree.

This event provided an opportunity for networking and connecting with industry professionals. Attendees were able to share insights and foster meaningful connections, according to Erin (Demers) Aaron, TCIA’s manager, workforce recruitment and retention.

Reaching beyond TCIA

Aaron speaks at industry conferences and events about DEI and apprenticeship.

“Attending and speaking at conferences outside of TCIA events is critical to raising awareness of not only TCIA led workforce-development initiatives, but of other industry efforts as well (such as Women’s Tree Climbing Workshop),” says Aaron. “It is an opportunity to connect with TCIA members and tree care businesses in a local or regional setting.”

When asked what people are interested in learning about, Aaron says, “Mostly, folks are interested in the overall theme of workforce development, which can break down into DEI and apprenticeship,” she says.

Aaron spoke at the New England ISA Conference and the New York State Arborists Winter Conference on “Breaking Barriers in Tree Care: Best Practices for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the Workplace.” At the North Carolina Urban Forest Council’s annual conference, she spoke on workforce-development
strategies and apprenticeship.

Women in Tree Care
Women in Tree Care events provide opportunities for networking and connecting with others in the industry, such as this event at Winter Management Conference ’24.

Best practices for fostering DEI

Aaron focuses on best practices for fostering diversity, equity and inclusion throughout the workplace. This means from the very beginning of the recruitment stage to retention, and through the entire overall workplace culture.

Aaron advises employers to identify DEI as a priority and set measurable goals, providing programs such as a mentorship program and career-development programs. “Recruit and promote from a diverse point of view,” she says.

SavATree is committed to DEI and has established goals and objectives, according to Tilford. “We have an affinity committee to set strategic goals and evaluate our company processes to continuously improve the organization’s ability to create an inclusive working environment,” says Tilford.

I asked Tilford if he thinks the tree care industry is moving in the right direction, toward inclusiveness. He said “The industry as a whole has made strides toward the goal of diversification. Groups like the Women’s Tree Climbing Workshop (WTCW) and TCIA have created incredible momentum and support for DEI. Awareness and advocacy will help bring further positive change to arboriculture.”

Susan DiPietro is TCI Magazine managing editor/website editor.

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