April 1, 2022
London-based group provides networking, community for green professionalsWomen in Landscaping co-founders Pam Cook and Carla Bailey joined Scott Barber on a recent Landscape Ontario Podcast episode to discuss the welcoming community they’ve fostered through their group based in London, Ont. Through networking opportunities and special events, the group aims to provide a supportive community for green professionals and to encourage even more women to enter the profession.
How did you find your way into the landscape profession?Bailey: Coming into landscaping is very kismet for me. It was not what I went to school for, was not what I was expecting to do. And then life changed a little bit and all of a sudden I met Landscape Ontario about 11 or 12 years ago. I started doing chapter coordination in the London chapter, which introduced me to some really interesting business people. Ten years on, I do the human resources for TLC Landscaping. I sit on the London board now, as opposed to being their coordinator.
Cook: I started my landscaping industry experience as a Fanshawe [College] student. I took the horticulture program and was really involved with Landscape Ontario with the student chapter, as well as on the local board, then worked my way up through. I’m just obsessed with the green industry, be it landscaping, be it design, be it trees, plants, plant health care, you name it. It’s my jam.
And nothing makes me more excited than to be able to participate in it and share my excitement with other people. So that’s kind of where the Women in Landscaping thing came together — finding like-minded individuals who were just as excited about our industry and wanting to share our passion and our love for it and making sure that it gave people the opportunity to stay and know that there’s a long-term career.
How did the Women in Landscaping group get started?Cook: It started in 2018 when a group of us within the industry acknowledged a need to support women and to support newcomers into our industry, that there was sort of a disconnect with women who maybe are the only woman in a group or the only woman in a crew who didn’t have that camaraderie or didn’t have that group of people to share with.
We started out with just a small group of folks actually, and Fanshawe College was our first event. We invited all the students, as well as all of our industry leaders that we knew to come and join us and have a really heart-to-heart conversation about what it meant to be a woman in their industry and what it meant to support each other.
Who were some of the early members?Cook: The beautiful thing was it was all walks of our industry, from entry level students coming in, to professionals who have gone through the last 20, 30 years of their career and to come together to share experiences. Sally Harvey [current Landscape Ontario director of education and workforce development] was one of our first speakers to share with the group what it meant to be a woman and growing up through this industry and developing their career.
And since then we’ve done a number of meetings together. We’ve done plant walks together. We’ve done youth engagement events as well, where we’ve done a Touch-a-Truck where we engaged with the youth in our area and brought thousands and thousands of kids and parents together to experience what it meant to be in our industry.
How do members benefit from joining the group?Bailey: It is a ridiculously supportive group of people. Pam touched on we have everyone from students to business owners 30 years into their business and the honest truth is you sit around the table and everybody there wants you to be successful. So if there is a question, there might be 75 answers. To be able to sit in that room and hear of different walks of life and different histories, different paths that they want to go on to, it’s such a support. It really is.
What’s it like to have a career in the landscape industry?Cook: Honestly, it’s been absolutely incredible to participate in our industry. It’s a really engaging group of people. There are so many facets to what we do and so many different ways that we can utilize our talents. It’s not one of those careers where you come in and you’re going to do the same thing for your entire career. There’s so many different avenues you can take based on your skills, based on your experience, but also based on your wants and hopes for your career. I think that’s probably the most incredible thing about this profession. The sky’s the limit. You’re the only person holding you back from succeeding.
Bailey: I come from it obviously a little bit differently than Pam. Pam had wanted to be in this industry. I didn’t know about this industry. So there was a lot of wide-eyed early days of ‘okay, this is what this means.’ And learning from the technical language up to the slang that gets used.
When I look back, would I change anything? Absolutely not. The opportunities that are out there for people that hustle is pretty much limitless. If you want to go that educational path, there are so many different opportunities there. If you want to eventually move into management, move into ownership, there are so many groups that you can lean on.
It’s a billion dollar industry in the province of Ontario. However, it’s very tight knit. People know each other. People try to support each other, which is not traditional. So I think it’s a fantastic, fantastic life I fell into ten years ago.
What would you say to women wondering about pursuing a career in landscaping?Cook: I would say don’t let anything hold you back. Don’t look at things as a limitation. There’s lots and lots of different resources. And how you get into this industry and where this industry can take you...ask questions. Get in there.
Call up local companies. Call up local organizations: Women in Landscaping, Landscape Ontario. There’s so many people out there that are willing to share their knowledge and share their excitement for this industry. And the first thing you have to do is ask.
What do you say to anyone wondering if your group is right for them?Bailey: 100 per cent it’s for them. Obviously, pre-COVID things were a little bit different. The events we were having ranged from career paths, from education, from design skills to human resources skills. There is much you could learn from the speakers we bring in and the community that we have.
Currently, Women in Landscaping is a grassroots organization. We are based in London, Ontario, and we’re making sure that we’re well structured there before rolling out to whatever that might look like [in other communities]. But we’re more than happy to talk about if your community can host this and how we can help you do that yourself. So talk to us. Ask the question. Ask any question. We’ll give you whatever we can.
What are some upcoming plans and goals for Women in Landscaping?Cook: We’re all really excited and we just want to get back to being in front of people. We want to get back to engaging as much as we can. There’s some pretty amazing technologies that are in front of us that we can utilize but it’s still not the same as being in-person, networking, participating with one another. We are definitely hitting the ground running this summer.
We are excited to announce we’re going to do a Touch-a-Truck for the summer in a central location, same expectations as before, if not bigger and better. It’s free to the public. And what we really want to do is just get in front of people and educate and provide knowledge about what we do, what equipment is out there, what careers are out there, and that everyone is absolutely welcome.
Get some kids on trucks, get messy, get dirty, honk some horns, and engage in our community. We have a new, bigger venue and we’re looking forward to that. And we’ve got other things in the works for some in-person events for our community and our network.
Where can people learn more about Women in Landscaping?Bailey: The best place is going to be on our Facebook page. Just search for ‘Women in Landscaping.’
It’s been quiet [due to COVID-19] as we’ve been focusing on our families and our immediate needs but as more information comes out for our July Touch-a-Truck and our future education sessions, all the information will be there for people.