Working Within the Canopy: TCIA’s Initiatives for Women in Tree Care

Women in Tree Care

According to the Tree Care Industry Association’s (TCIA) website: “While the tree care industry is predominantly male, the gender dynamic is changing.” They credit the shift to advances in equipment and techniques that have made arboriculture an accessible career path for everyone.

As a company that believes in working smarter, not harder, Cumberland Valley Tree Service – Landscaping (accredited TCIA member for more than 20 years) definitely agrees that an industry-wide commitment to technology and education have encouraged new talent to enter tree care while also making it significantly safer for everyone (even though it remains one of the most hazardous professions).

We would also add, however, that these advances haven’t occurred in a vacuum.

They have often been initiated and supported by the hard work of TCIA.

Advice to women interested in getting into tree care from TCIA’s “Women in Tree Care” Facebook group

TCIA and Women and Tree Care

Founded in 1938 as the National Arborist Association, TCIA is a trade organization of 2,000 tree care firms and affiliated companies. It supports these members by developing safety and education programs, standards of tree care practice, and management information for tree and landscape firms around the world.

In recent years, TCIA has actively supported women in tree care through forums at TCI EXPO (an annual trade conference) that focus on topics including leadership, mentoring and running a business. The conferences also provide a valuable opportunity “to network and engage in conversations about their experiences in this industry.”

TCIA has also created the “Women in Tree Care” Facebook group that allows women to connect with each other online. “Group members have been actively sharing relevant and inspiring articles, promoting upcoming events and training opportunities, posting selfies and even sharing tips about tough topics such as negotiating salary increases.”

TCIA also emphasizes that there is more to the tree care industry than, well, the tree care. There is an entire world behind the scenes of “office managers, marketing directors, recruiters, sales staff and more.”

And TCIA practices what it preaches. In 2018, 65% of their staff of 46 employees was comprised of women.

Advice to women interested in getting into tree care from TCIA’s “Women in Tree Care” Facebook group

Women in Tree Care: Real-World Experience

We asked Tchukki Andersen and Amy Tetreault of TCIA about their own niches in tree care and how the industry is changing. Their answers revealed two very different paths that have both yielded successful careers.

At the dawn of the 1990s, Tchukki Andersen was between jobs and mowing lawns to get by when one of her customers asked if she could prune their dogwood tree. Despite “knowing absolutely nothing about pruning,” she accepted the gig. The customer – who Andersen says also didn’t know anything about pruning – was satisfied when the job was completed, which encouraged her to learn more about proper pruning techniques.

“I really enjoyed pruning,” she recalls, “and it was way easier than mowing lawns!”

Nearly 30 years later, and Andersen is a Staff Arborist with TCIA where she focuses on Plant Health Care and developing volumes of training materials for TCIA members to use with their own crews. In addition to holding both an Associate’s degree and a Bachelor’s degree in Forestry, she is also a Board Certified Master Arborist, a Certified Tree Care Safety Professional and a Certified Crane Operator.

Perhaps remembering her own beginnings in tree care, Andersen is dedicated to providing other people interested in tree care – at all stages of their career – the education that she eagerly sought out after her first pruning job.

Initially she had worked as a sole proprietor, so she didn’t have an opportunity to mentor with anyone.

“If I had to start over today, the chances to partner with a mentor are more available, and I would readily seek one out,” she says. “It would make the journey a little less frustrating and even more fun.”

Adding: “In my current position, I provide arboricultural knowledge and expertise to the programs and education resources at TCIA,” says Andersen.

Advice to women interested in getting into tree care from TCIA’s “Women in Tree Care” Facebook group

TCIA’s educational initiatives fall under a broad canopy that includes everything a tree care professional needs to know to operate within industry standards – everything from safety training to how to buy insurance.

One way that the industry has changed over the span of her career is that it is becoming increasingly open to women.

Andersen says that TCIA is stepping up the game in supporting women in tree care, and is providing additional training opportunities for women over the next few years. One example is the Women in Treecare Workshop which will take place at TCI EXPO in Indianapolis, November 4-6, 2021.

“I am thrilled to see all the women entering the field in different capacities,” says Andersen. “There is so much opportunity! I would encourage women of all ages to explore the different facets of tree care and test drive any areas that look interesting.”

Tree care is a massive industry, and there is plenty of room for people of diverse experiences and skill-sets.

“There is outdoor work, there is indoor work, research, training and business opportunities that might be a great fit for someone looking for those specifics,” she says.

Advice to women interested in getting into tree care from TCIA’s “Women in Tree Care” Facebook group

‘A Rising Tide Raises All Boats’

 Amy Tetreault, Senior VP of Corporate Engagement at TCIA, is someone who has taken the closer-to-the-ground approach to a career in tree care. For more than ten years, Tetreault has brought her business experience – marketing, fundraising and corporate engagement – to TCIA.

Tetreault explains that in addition to the arborists who are literally in the trees, TCIA also has corporate members, which includes suppliers, manufacturers and service providers. Her division is responsible for connecting these corporate members with the tree care companies.

“I think this role highlights, again, how working in this industry isn’t relegated to climbing trees,” says Tetreault.

She adds: “There have always been amazing women in this industry, leading the charge and paving the way. And I can confirm that over my past ten years in the industry, I’ve seen a lot of growth and development around women in the industry.”

Specifically, Tetreault points to “established industry folks” like Melissa and Bear LeVangie, who founded the Women’s Tree Climbing Workshop; “badasses” like Krista Sterling, a world-champion tree climber; business leader Mundy Wilson Piper of the TCIA Board of Directors; and Caitlin Pollihan who is reinventing the International Society of Arboriculture.

“How couldn’t we see growth?” she asks. “A rising tide raises all boats.”

[Featured image is from TCIA’s website.]