SFI Women

Meet the women of SFI

For International Women’s Day 2023, SFI, Project Learning Tree (PLT), and PLT Canada (PLTC) are highlighting how we #EmbraceEquity.

The words equity and equality are often used interchangeably. Both words share the root word “aequus,” which means even, fair, or equal. But despite this shared root, equity and equality are fundamentally different.

The International Women’s Day 2023 #EmbraceEquity campaign seeks to help forge a worldwide conversation about what we mean when we say “equity” and “equality.” At SFI, we know that equal opportunities are no longer enough and that despite people’s best intentions, focusing on equality without considering equity can be exclusionary, rather than inclusive.

This International Women’s Day, let’s remember that each of us has different circumstances, and that resources and opportunities must match individual needs if we are to reach an equal outcome.

Shaping a Forest Sector That Delivers on the Promise of Equity

We at SFI truly believe in building an equal and inclusive world where everyone fully understands the difference between equity and equality.
We also believe that SFI is strengthened by the diversity of its team. We represent diverse cultures, disciplines, educational backgrounds, and work and life experiences.

Below are a few SFI testimonials on how women can succeed in the forest and conservation sector in ways that will make it more equitable and welcoming for all.

“Take the front row! Be curious. Believe in yourself. Learn from others and pass it on. And when you succeed, help others do the same. Share your voice for good!”
Kathy Abusow, President and CEO

“You can do anything you put your mind to—the sky is the limit. There are many diverse and rewarding opportunities in the forest and conservation sector. Learn from others but create your own path and future, and you will make a difference.”
Bettina Ring, Chief Sustainability and Diversity Officer

Find your voice. Don’t be afraid to try new things and express your opinions. Work collaboratively with your team to find practical solutions and celebrate your achievements together. This will give you a sense of purpose and inspire you to contribute to something greater.”
Nadine Block, Senior VP, Community and Government Relations

“Seek out female mentors in forestry to get a better understanding of your career options. We’re always happy to support and uplift the next generation!”
Carley Archibald, Coordinator, GIS and Conservation Research

“Seek opportunities related to your field of interest as those experiences will help bolster your resume and help shape your career.”
Rachel Hamilton, Sr. Coordinator, Conservation Partnerships

“Create and expand your professional network by actively seeking formal and informal mentors. Don’t hesitate to approach individuals, especially women, who hold positions that interest you. Many people will welcome the opportunity to share their experience with an enthusiastic individual new to their forestry career. “
Julia Hershberger, Director, Human Resources

“Learn to have confidence in your abilities and understand the value you contribute to the sector. Forestry is not just for trees but also for communities and people who depend on it.”
Shuya Huang, Coordinator, Education Systems

“Reach out and connect with other women in the forest and conservation field by networking or joining focus groups on social media. Explore and figure out what interests you and then apply for the job—even if it scares you. It will be worth it!”
Madhuri Jani, Senior Coordinator, Green Jobs

“Find a mentor and take every opportunity available to you. If something doesn’t feel right or someone is treating you in a way that is not appropriate, speak up.”
Alix Olson, Coordinator, Statistic, Urban and Community Forestry

“Jump right in and be proud of what brings you joy, both personally and professionally. Reach out and get involved in organizations that support your goals. There are other women and girls who share your passion. Seek out mentors!”
Annie Perkins, Senior Director, Green Building and Supply Chain

“Connect with someone working in a forest and conservation career and chat with them to learn more about what the day-to-day aspects of a particular job look like and ask them to help you expand your network.”
Danika Strecko, Senior Manager, Education

“Girls and women need to see themselves in forest and conservation roles to believe they can have careers in the sector. Exposure and experience are crucial, including having women speakers and mentors who look like the youth and have similar barriers and raising awareness among families. It takes a community effort to support youth and help them recognize and achieve their potential in the sector.”
Jerri Taylor, Director of Diversity in Career Pathways

“Find mentorship programs like the PLT Green Mentor Program and the PLT Canada Green Mentor Program. They are great ways to improve your networking skills and grow your professional connections. There are also many scholarships available for young adults to attend conferences—apply, apply, apply!”
Mira Williamson, Senior Manager, Communications

Hear from some of the women who work at SFI on what they love most about working in the forest and conservation sector.

“This work of advancing sustainability through forest-focused collaboration is important work. When we do it right, it can make a positive difference in our health and well-being. Plus, it supports communities, addresses climate change, provides renewable products, and addresses many challenges positively.”
Kathy Abusow, President and CEO

“I love that our work advances forest-focused collaboration while balancing environmental, social, and economic considerations. Connecting with the people and communities we serve is a highlight, and I’m inspired by our efforts to drive positive change at the intersection of these three areas.”
Bettina Ring, Chief Sustainability and Diversity Officer

“I love that forestry is a rapidly evolving sector. I’m fortunate to be surrounded by individuals who share a deep commitment to our forests and recognize the importance of making climate-smart decisions about our resources. Although forestry is a long-term endeavor, it demands continual reflection and adaptation as we strive to enhance our understanding and integrate new information into our decision-making processes.”
Nadine Block, Senior VP, Community and Government Relations

“I love knowing that the work I’m doing today to help bring environmental education to youth will have a positive impact on not only their future but our climate. I’m passionate about leaving this world a better place for future generations and instilling a love of nature in kids.”
Megan Annis, Director, Sales and Marketing

“The forest and conservation sector is full of smart, passionate people who dedicate their lives towards a greener future. I’m constantly inspired by colleagues who care deeply about the future of people and the planet, and am energized by the fact that I’m always learning!”
Jennifer Byerly, Director, Communications

“I love working in forestry and sustainability because it helps build stronger communities. Trees and forests have a way of bringing people together while combating environmental issues.”
Lydia Kidane, Coordinator, Education Programs

“I love making a difference, finding sustainable solutions to real-world problems, and supporting youth in learning about green career pathways and making change—that means the world to me.”
Brittany Lodge, Coordinator, Youth Programs

“I love combining my passion for education with my love of nature and being outside. I truly believe that empowering the next generation of environmental stewards is the greatest path to change.”
Kate Nagle, Director, Education & PLT Network

“The forestry and sustainability community is just that—a community of learners and practitioners. Forestry (and the education surrounding it) is a practice, and we must practice it to become proficient. It’s a joy to do so alongside other women who so fundamentally care about the future of our planet.”
Jaclyn Stallard, Curriculum Advisor

“I graduated with a Master’s in Environmental Engineering from the University of Windsor with a strong knowledge base in sustainability. I was always drawn to working in the environmental sector. With climate change becoming a stronger reality, forests are a crucial ecosystem and fundamental for the environment’s well-being. I realized that forestry is not a secluded sector and does not only include working outdoors. I transferred my research and data analysis skills into my work and combined my passion and skills in my everyday life.”
Shwetha Kengasur Venkatesh, Coordinator, Green Jobs

SFI believes anyone can lead, and on International Women’s Day (and every day) we reaffirm our commitment to elevating the role of women when it comes to the critical work we are doing to ensure the sustainability of our planet.

To the women of SFI, we recognize and salute you!

Two Women Sustainability Leaders Joining SFI in April

As a woman-led organization with a staff and board of directors of 75 people, two-thirds of whom are female, SFI is well-placed to deliver on the promise of an equitable future for all.

SFI will be officially welcoming two more women leaders to its staff starting April 4.

Dr. Lauren T. Cooper is joining as SFI’s new Chief Conservation Officer, and Dr. Healy Hamilton is stepping in as SFI’s Chief Scientist.

Dr. Cooper is well respected among the forest sector, academic communities, and the SFI network. She has exceptional knowledge and experience in climate‑smart forestry and applied science and is well‑respected internationally for her work in assessing forest-based climate finance and for linking wood utilization to sustainability.

Dr. Hamilton will provide strategic direction and increased rigor to SFI’s conservation science program. She will accelerate the scale of SFI’s conservation impact, further elevating awareness of the role of sustainable forest management in species recovery, climate-smart forestry, and conservation outcomes.

Meet the Women of SFI’s Board

Ebonie Alexander, Executive Director, Black Family Land Trust and SFI Board Member
Ebonie is passionate in her belief that land is a tangible asset, with economic, human, and spiritual value, which connects African Americans with their rich history. Ebonie also worked hard for over 1.5 years to help steer content and design, and to offer insights in the creation of the SFI-PLT-MANRRS Journeys of Black Professionals in Green Careers guide.

Annica Bresky, President and CEO, Stora Enso and SFI Board Member
Annica has more than two decades of experience in advancing sustainable business agendas. She believes long-term business success is possible only if the business is regenerative for the societies it operates in, socially and environmentally.

Tracy Farrell, CEO, International Union for the Conservation of Nature US and SFI Board Member
Tracy has more than 20 years of experience leading global conservation and sustainable development programs and projects. She believes it takes a village of partners to broaden how the private and public sectors work together to find the best long-term sustainability solutions.

Catherine Grenier, President and CEO, Nature Conservancy Canada and SFI Board Member
As head of Canada’s leading national land conservation organization, Catherine oversees partnerships with individuals, corporations, foundations, Indigenous communities, non-profit organizations, and governments at all levels to protect the country’s most important natural treasures. Her passion for community building and conservation was recognized in 2016 with an Award of Excellence from the Canadian Parks Council and the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012.

Ashley Hoffman, Executive Director, Kentucky Association for Environmental Education and SFI Board Member
Ashley is a Certified Professional Environmental Educator in Kentucky. She serves as the Kentucky State Coordinator for Project Learning Tree. She is also co-chair of the PLT Education Operating Committee, and she directly supports SFI’s work across our education pillar.

Patricia Layton, Director, Wood Utilization + Design Institute, Clemson University and SFI Board Vice-Chair
Pat plays a vital role in SFI’s development, particularly in the area of mass timber, a priority in SFI’s strategic direction. Pat’s passion and leadership has advanced innovative design solutions with wood-based construction materials and illustrated the critical role of sustainably managed forests in emerging markets like tall wood buildings.

Ellen Shultzabarger, State Forester and Director, Pennsylvania Bureau of Forestry and Member
Ellen was appointed to her position with the Pennsylvania Bureau of Forestry by Governor Tom Wolf in 2018, following 14 years in various positions with the Bureau. She is responsible for oversight of 2.2 million acres of state forestlands, all of which are certified to the SFI Forest Management Standard.

The forest sector and SFI-certified forests and products are powerful tools to achieve shared goals such as climate action, reduced waste, conservation of biodiversity, education of future generations, and sustainable economic development. When women’s voices are central to achieving these shared sustainability goals, we all win.


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