March 15, 2018
By Myscha Stafford
LO Membership and Chapter Coordinator

Myscha StaffordGirls! Well, we’re working on it. March 8 is International Women’s Day, so this month, my column is all about the ladies. Historically, women were the original keepers of green spaces and the wives of farmers were responsible for establishing and running horticultural and agricultural associations. Women like Gertrude Jekyll, among many others, were pioneers in the advancement of the horticulture professions.

To date, Landscape Ontario has had two women serve as president: Monica van Maris in 1987 and Joan Johnson in 2000. Our third female president, Lindsay Drake Nightingale, should take the helm in 2022. Currently, Lindsay is one of three women on LO’s Provincial Board of Directors, alongside Margot Byers and Lexi Dearborn. Lexi carries on the tradition of strong female chapter presidents, who over the years have included Caroline de Vries, Fran McKenzie as well as the three aforementioned presidents (both past and future).

So what role do women play in the leadership of your own business? How many of your full-time crew members and crew leaders are women? Are you a female business owner or co-owner?

Statistically across Canada, self-employment is less common among women compared to men, who make up 61.2 per cent of business owners. If we surveyed all LO members, it would be relatively safe to say in the landscape maintenance and construction sectors, the majority of business owners and crew members are male. We tend to see more female representation in the retail and design sectors of the green profession. If you’ve been to a landscaping or horticulture event, chances are the majority of attendees were male.

Are we developing a profession that is accessible and welcoming to both men and women in all sectors? Would we have a more diverse crowd at events like chapter meetings if they were hosted primarily during the day so that we do not take away precious evening time from you and your families?

What about the culture or work environment on your job sites? Is it inclusive to all potential candidates? Kristal MacMillan, Operations Manager at Christine’s Touch Gardening in Toronto, Ont., offers some food for thought: “I think the common language of our profession is outdated, sexist, and is a catalyst for behaviours. I think a lot of behaviours are implicit and done subconsciously. Awareness and change at the highest levels is essential to make an effective and lasting change in our profession and to get on track to a more level playing field.”

MacMillan continues, “By language, I mean the use of the following terms: man hour and foreman for example. In our company, we have always used the terms labour hour and crew leader or supervisor. It is commonplace in our company to use non-gender specific terms and all of our systems are set up to reflect this so that it quickly becomes the common language for our entire team.”

Resources for women in horticulture continue to increase for both employees and business owners. Australia has an association dedicated exclusively to fostering women in horticulture. Locally, Humber College has partnered with the YWCA and the Ontario Ministry of the Status of Women to create a pre-apprenticeship training program that enables women to become Horticultural Technicians.

Regardless of gender, when you own a business you face constant challenges on a daily basis. You may feel alone, but the truth is there are many others facing the exact same problems. Solutions, advice and even the energy to take on those often overwhelming issues is close at hand with participation in LO’s Peer to Peer Network program. Exclusively for LO member business owners, the peer group gathers throughout the year at face-to-face meetings and continues discussions via private and confidential online forums that empower all business owners to reach their highest objectives. A great video and details on how to join are online at

If there is a woman in your professional circle you feel has made an influence in the green profession, consider nominating them for The Monica van Maris Green Professionals Woman of Influence Award. The award will be presented at the TBG’s 2018 Summer Blossom Party (formerly known as Woman to Woman: Lunch in the Garden) on May 29.

The award, presented by Landscape Ontario and Toronto Botanical Garden (TBG), bears Monica’s name in recognition of her pioneering achievements as a green professional. The inaugural award took place in 2017 and starting this year, green industry professionals can nominate candidates who, in their opinion, have made significant contributions and have had an outstanding influential impact on the green professions. For more information, visit

Myscha Stafford can be reached at or 1-800-265-5656 ext.2333.