Breaking the mold: Being the new face of the green industry

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Updated Mar 1, 2021
Photo: LandscapeGalPhoto: LandscapeGal

Yesterday, we talked to two green industry women about how they got started in this line of work and what it’s like to be a woman in this industry.

Today, they discuss what they think can be done to attract more women and minorities to this field, as well as share their words of wisdom and encouragement to future women in landscaping.

Working on inclusionTlc Part Two

As a woman of color in this industry, Sierra Saint, co-owner of One Love Lawn in Grove City, Ohio, says one way to generate interest among women and minorities is to make sure they are positively represented in your company’s staff, advertising and social media posts.

Saint says equipment brands can also lend a hand with spreading this message by making sure when women and minorities are incorporated into promotional ads, videos or commercials that they are shown actually operating equipment.

“Most of the time, commercials will show a woman merely standing near a machine or holding it, when it would be much more impactful to show her in action,” says Saint. “This helps enforce the fact that someone other than a man knows how to properly handle these machines.”

Photo: One Love LawnPhoto: One Love Lawn

When it comes to women in the green industry, Dee Larson, owner of LandscapeGal in Northfield, Minnesota, says women bring unique skillsets to the table that many men may lack.

Larson and Saint agree that women tend to pay more attention to detail when working on a project, and Larson says this trait has greatly impacted her success in the design/build field.

“I pay close attention to detail, which is extremely important,” says Larson. “You can’t miss the details that your clients are giving you when you’re interviewing them about what they want or what they might be able to have. You really need to listen well, pay attention to the little innuendos and little details and be able to read people a little bit.”

Larson adds that she believes women tend to be better communicators and have a better knack for design work.

Words of advice

Growing up in this industry, it was no surprise to Larson that the field was predominantly male. Overwhelmingly, Larson says she still has the respect of her male coworkers, even before she ran her own company.

Very quickly, she says they found out she knew what she was doing when it came to operating heavy machinery because those skills can’t be faked.  Oftentimes, she says she would even have former coworkers coming to her for advice.

Even though there’s still a ways to go before the workplace is as inclusive as it should be, Larson says she can tell a noticeable difference between now and when she first started her career.

Photo: One Love LawnPhoto: One Love Lawn

“It just takes a little time,” says Larson. “When I first got into the business in the ’80s, women were less a part of the industry then. If I had owned my own company then, I don’t think it would have been the same as it has been in the 2000s. A 20-year difference has made a big difference in the way women are viewed in the workplace.”

Larson says that in the beginning, and even still today, she will have clients that are hesitant to take her advice because they are uncertain that a woman will have the necessary machinery knowledge to complete bigger projects. After hearing her talk about the machines and hearing her detailed explanation of the projects, Larson says they quickly come around and begin to trust her.

When asked if she could go back and change when she started her business, Larson admits that the idea is a double-edged sword of sorts. On the one hand, she could have jumpstarted her career as a business owner 20 years earlier, but on the other hand, she says she still isn’t sure that she would have had the same amount of success then as she does now.

“Had I not worked for someone else and gotten an education by watching both their successes and their failures, I might not be as successful as I am today,” says Larson.

To all women wanting to pursue the green industry, Larson says to always be open to exploring the numerous possibilities this field offers. She also adds that you need to be genuine and educate yourself on proper equipment usage and horticultural practices, as people will be able to tell when you’re faking it.

As previously mentioned, one issue many women and minorities have found when it comes to the green industry is there is little to no representation of themselves, which causes them to feel that they don’t belong here or shouldn’t even try to pursue this line of work.

Saint says she is always willing to offer help and advice to women wanting to take the leap and jump into this industry because it’s a huge industry, and she believes it’s important to bring in more women and minorities.

“Be that face; put yourself out there,” says Saint. “Try it. You don’t have to work for someone else. This is something you could start by yourself. You can do this on your own, or you can work for somebody else just to see if you like it, but be that face. Post it, show that you’re doing it and I guarantee you’re going to find someone else that’s doing it, too. It’s a huge industry, and we’re letting it all go to the men? Why?”

Photo: LandscapeGalPhoto: LandscapeGal
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