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Women in the field: Encouraging other women to ‘go for it’
Jill Odom | March 13, 2018
backyard garden oasis

Edamarie Mattei’s company Backyard Bounty specializes in designing and installing gardens and is an organic land care provider.
Photo: Backyard Bounty

This is part two in a two-part series. Click here to read part one.

Yesterday we looked at how certain women got into the landscaping field, what they’ve struggled with and the benefits of being female in the industry.

Today, we’re delving into what makes them love this trade so much, the present situation of women in landscaping and how companies can help attract more females to their business. 

What they love

When asked what their favorite part of the landscaping industry is, the overwhelming answer was the ability to be outside.

Dee Vires

Dee Vires

Both Donna Lawler, a purchasing manager for The Greathouse Company, based in Nashville, Tennessee, and Shelley Russell, a landscape designer for Level Green Landscaping based in Upper Marlboro, Maryland, said they also enjoyed the range of their work on a daily basis.

“I love that not too many projects are exactly the same,” Russell said. “There’s a lot of diversity in the projects that I get to work on.”

Meanwhile, Dee Vires, an account manager for CGM, based in Peoria, Illinois, and Chris Rogers, an account manager – recurring services – for Carolina Creations Landscapes, based in Shallotte, North Carolina, say they enjoy the instant gratification that comes from being able to beautify a property.

“Bringing the wow factor to somebody’s house and then hearing later from the customer when they get home, and they go ‘Wow, holy cow I love it!’” Vires said. “That’s what I enjoy.”

“I think my favorite part is actually designing and building gardens for people that are really right for them,” said Edamarie Mattei, owner of Backyard Bounty, based in Silver Spring, Maryland. “We really focus especially on making sure that we listen carefully to our clients, and I love that we can create these beautiful spaces that are also environmentally responsible and beautiful, and so it’s really that working with clients and land together.”

For Ashley Owens, a business development manager who also works for Level Green, her favorite part is getting to meet her customers and having a chance to educate them.

Ashley Owens

Ashley Owens

“As nerdy as this sounds, I get really excited about plants and cutting grass and flowers and things like that…and that’s the part I like educating my customers on,” Owens said. “If you’re excited about something and passionate about something, that’s very, very easily observed with somebody that you’re talking to. And so, if I can convey that passion for landscaping and for the company that I’m working for, it’s a lot easier to build rapport with that customer. Sometimes that doesn’t turn into an immediate opportunity, but if you get that relationship going, that’ll eventually down the road at some point lead to an opportunity with them. Teaching people about why I get excited about landscaping and why I’m excited about Level Green is my favorite part.”

Current status

As for whether they are seeing more women entering the landscaping field in recent years, the answers were a little more mixed, but the part they could agree on is that there is still work to be done.

Edamarie Mattei

Edamarie Mattei
Photo: Erick Gibson

Close to a 40-year veteran in the industry, Lawler says she hasn’t seen much of a change. She acknowledges there are plenty of women in the field, but it is still a male-dominated trade. Mattei concurs that there are a fair number of women who are designers, but less who are installers and crew members and isn’t certain much has changed to make the industry more evenly mixed.

Rogers and Russell agree that while it isn’t 50/50 yet, there has been an increase in women since they started.

“I think there’s a trend toward more women,” Russell said. “At Level Green, I feel like there’s more, slightly more, I mean I still feel like there’s definitely room to grow so it’s definitely still male-dominated. There’s definitely more room to grow, but there’s a few more, I would say.”

Brooke Harris, another account manager – recurring services – at Carolina Creations, also says she’s seen more women hired on within her company and more women entering the landscaping programs at North Carolina State University where she attended.

Vires herself says she’s considered trying to recruit some women she worked with at the greenhouse for her mow team.

“I would love to get a women team out there on my group,” she said. “And I’m shooting for that. I’m looking for it.”

Attracting more women

When it comes to solving the issues of making a male-dominated industry more even, the two main responses were to start recruiting in high school and to let women know this is a field for them.

Chris Rogers

Chris Rogers

“I think that a lot of women don’t even understand that it’s an industry,” Rogers said.  “A lot of women are like ‘Oh you know, I like to garden.’ But I don’t think that they really understand that that really is an industry…They don’t realize there’s a whole science behind that or that people out there do that for a living. And I think that it’s a place where women could really find themselves really content in their work. Because dirt’s good for the soul, man.”

Mattei and Lawler stress that part of the problem is not educating women on all of the different job offerings the landscaping industry provides.

“It’s starts back in high school,” Lawler said. “You can’t just start to recruit women who are already middle-aged. It starts at the high school level. All anybody sees is the guy working hard out there digging a hole and there’s a lot of behind the scenes, positions and knowledge, that can be put to use in other positions. And I don’t think a lot of people see what all opportunities there are in the estimating, the sales, the buying end like what I do right now.”

The other key element to recruiting women is to call attention to those who are already leaders in the field, according to Mattei.

Russell says an easy way to do this is for landscaping companies to take advantage of social media and share pictures of women working on their teams.

Shelley Russell

Shelley Russell

“If you have women on your crews or female designers, show that just so people know,” Russell said. “Don’t hide them. I don’t think people hide them, but I think it would be a good thing to show that they have men and women through the social media, like Facebook and all that.”

“I think as more women are seen in anything, more women come into that job,” Vires said. “As you saw more female police officers, that became more appealing to women…It’s like it became okay to do it, and okay for us to come into that field so as I feel more are seeing (women) out there doing it, you’ll see that. I just think the more it’s seen, the more that it makes it easier for another woman to step in and go ‘Oh okay, this is something I can do, and I should consider.’”

Advice to fellow women 

These women in landscaping did not mince words when it came to their advice for other women considering entering the industry.

Brooke Harris

Brooke Harris

The majority put it simply: “Go for it.”

“I would say just go for it,” Harris said. “Don’t be intimidated by it being a male-dominated industry because I think women have proven that they can do this, and we can make our mark as well.”

The other main piece of advice offered is to simply learn as much as you can.

“I think that if you’re going to enter into this industry that kind of knowledge is power,” Rogers said. “And you can harness that into being able to create spectacular outdoor spaces for other people and really give people what they want.”

Owens agrees that nothing makes you more powerful than having the education of the industry you’re working for.

Donna Lawler

Donna Lawler

“Don’t use being a female and being the minority as an excuse,” Owens said. “In my experience, I’ve never felt like I’ve been passed up on an opportunity because I’m a female. I think that if you’re passed up on an opportunity it’s because you didn’t present yourself as the best person for that. I think it’s really important if you’re a woman in a male-dominated industry that you set yourself apart and make it so that that you’re not dispensable and that you’re the best person for the next promotion.”

Lawler’s advice is to be ready to work hard because it is a hard job.

“You’re in the elements a lot, whether it’s hot, cold, raining, sleeting, snowing, and yet it’s a very rewarding job as well,” Lawler said. “You get to see the fruits of your labor. I look back now on things I had a part in planting or buying or something 25-30 years ago and you really get to see the world grow around you. As far as advice, it is a male-dominated industry and you got to be strong and can’t succumb to whatever somebody wants to throw at you.”

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