Women in forestry hold a variety of roles throughout the industry’s many sectors and their contributions are numerous. Within the last several years, women have ascended to top management roles where their perspectives generate new ideas. Several women hold leadership roles at FPInnovations and we spoke to a senior director to learn about her experiences and what motivates her.
Joane St-Onge joined FPInnovations in 2018 as senior director of sustainable construction and director of the Quebec City laboratory, where she is responsible for carrying out research projects in an innovative environment to meet industry needs. Joane is a civil engineer with over 25 years of experience, including more than 20 years in management in the engineering and construction fields.
What motivated you to join a company in the forest sector?
Wood has been part of my world since I was a child: one of my grandfathers worked in the forest industry, the other was a cabinetmaker, my father was a carpenter-cabinetmaker, my godfather taught cabinetmaking, and my uncle was a chemical engineer for a large paper mill. Wood has long been in our family’s history. I grew up playing with hammers and hand saws, having fun in the sawdust among surface planers, buzz planers, and bandsaws. So the choice to join FPInnovations became a natural one for me, as it gave me the opportunity to combine my technical knowledge in engineering with my passion for wood.
How would you describe the working environment at FPInnovations?
It’s an environment of innovation where scientists create value for the industry. All the knowledge gathered within one company represents an incredible potential for creation in a world that extends from the forest to the products made from this fantastic fibre. Working and developing in such an environment is highly motivating and stimulating.
How important is mentoring to you, and do you see yourself as a mentor?
A mentor makes all the difference. People have their own knowledge and expertise; when they open up to others and share their experiences, the whole team’s knowledge is enriched. I expanded my skill sets because I was guided. Today, I enjoy sharing my wealth of experience.
Do women contribute a different approach to their work environment?
Absolutely. The approaches to challenges, business strategies, and relationship management are different and complementary. There’s an unparalleled balance that’s achieved in teams made up of men and women.
What opportunities does the forest industry offer women for the future?
There are great opportunities for women with this wind of innovation blowing through the industry. Whether it’s the application of artificial intelligence, the development of new materials, or the development of best environmental practices, women are finding their place in our industry.
What advice can you give to women who want to take up a management position in an industry traditionally run by men?
Believe in yourself. Trust yourself. Persevere. Above all, the real development of your leadership depends on those abilities and the willingness to be true to yourself. That’s the key, no matter where you work.