“In the forest industry, having a job or a successful career is not about gender. Instead, skills, attitudes and independence can take you far – no matter if you are a man or a woman”, says Eila Lautanen, development manager at Työtehoseura (TTS).
Eila Lautanen’s views are backed up by hard facts and her more than 40 years of educational and work experience in the forest industry. She has completed forestry degrees at all levels and gained work experience throughout her lengthy career, working as a forest worker and forest officer, as a forestry instructor and development manager, and everything in between.
“I have never run into any ideas about gender roles, not during my studies nor during my career. Even though I was the only girl at forestry school, it was no big thing – we all did the same things”, Lautanen says.
A woman’s brain is designed for mechanical harvesting
According to statistics of TTS, some three per cent of new forest machine operators are women. Roughly nine women graduate as forest machine operators every year. According to Lautanen, the question is about each individual’s comfort zones and areas of interests, not about their gender.
“Women may steer clear of heavy-duty machines if they have no previous experience of them. However, women can work with machines the same as anyone. It’s not physically heavy in any way. Of course, machines need to be maintained every day, but it’s a question of the technique, not of raw power.”
Being a woman can also be useful to some extent.
“We have a different kind of brain; and multi-tasking is no problem for us. When working with a harvester, all buttons in the cabin must be under control”, Lautanen says laughing.
Mari Kivelä has worked as a forest machine operator for eight years, without ever noticing any gender inequality at work or during her studies.
“Just the opposite, I’ve heard many positive comments that I can do some tasks better than men”, she says.
At first, older male forest owners may have doubted the talent of the young woman, but not for long. For Kivelä, studying to become a forest machine operator was an easy decision.
“I’ve seen this work up close since I was a child. We even had forest machines back home”, she says.
Kivelä mainly studied by means of apprenticeship training in Jämsänkoski, before which she studied at a vocational school.
Ability to withstand pressure and make decisions
Mari Kivelä says that she enjoys her work so much that, after trying other jobs for a couple of years, “she just had to get back to the forest.”
“No two days are the same, and I can work on my own in peace and quiet.”
Eila Lautanen points out that forest machine operators must be able to work independently, withstand pressure and be flexible. Work may even have to be done at night. Mari Kivelä agrees.
“Forest machine operators need to be tough. We don’t see other people, we mainly contact others by telephone. We need to be able to make good decisions independently.”
Forest machine operators need to work in practically any weather. Kivelä enjoys working during winter when it’s cold and snow on the ground. After her day’s work, she can be found from among her four-legged friends. A young racehorse and two energetic dogs keep her outdoors, even during her time off.
Guidance counsellors play an important part
There is a shortage of forest machine operators, especially in more remote regions. The forest industry can be foreign to many younger people, and communication is needed to advertise how modern and diverse the work can be. Here, guidance counsellors play an important part, also according to Eila Lautanen.
She recommends anyone who is interested to visit forest machine schools.
“Talk to students, get realistic information. Another way is to be brave and go straight to different companies.”
Text: Anu Ruusila/Cordial Communications