A passion for gardening and landscaping knows no gender bias. Both men and women enjoy working in the yard, planning projects, and beautifying the natural features of their homes. However, the landscaping industry—and many other “Green” industries—have historically been dominated by men, both in management and on ground crews. Now, there is evidence to suggest that this norm is slowly but surely changing. An increasing number of women are joining green industries and involving themselves in every tier of landscape design and management. Some are bright-eyed young professionals with college degrees in subjects like horticulture and business; others are amateurs with a passion for gardening and design; and still more are career women with diverse job experiences. Wherever they come from, women entering male-dominated industries face unjust challenges. They may be paid less than male colleagues, harassed by coworkers, or discriminated against by other professionals and clients. Despite these obstacles, women landscapers contribute creativity, insight, expertise, communication skills, business savvy, and invaluable perspective to the jobs they do. Through and through, they have proved their worth. Our full support is long overdue.
Gender Biases in Landscaping
Traditional gender roles hold that women are less suited for manual labor and management jobs than men are. In modern history, women have been described as the “weaker” or “gentler” sex, and both their minds and bodies have been positioned as fragile and in need of protection. Indeed, women are, on average, smaller than men (modern science long ago disproved the myth that female brains were less developed than male ones). Still, women have never been strangers to manual labor. Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, many working class women labored long hours in factories and, before that, many others worked tirelessly on farms and plantations. Generally, only affluent women could achieve the “ideals” of womanhood, working as caretakers and homemakers in the domestic sphere. Most women still had to make money to support their families, and many turned to manual labor as a dependable source of support.
Still, traditional gender roles prevented women from having access to the same kinds of opportunities men had. Up until the latter half of the 20th century, very few women went to college, and so employment opportunities were limited. Further, throughout the 20th century, most women were still the primary homemakers in their households—even if they also worked full or part-time jobs. So, while men made leeway in new and traditional industries, women struggled to balance the duel demands of work and family. These factors, and many others, contributed to the historical under-representation of women in nearly every field except for those that conformed to traditional gender roles: like caregiving, waitressing, child-rearing, and domestic service.
In the past fifty years, all of this has changed drastically. Now, women make up the majority of college graduates, and they are subsequently taking America’s job market by storm. Women have fought long and hard to change gender stereotypes, and now they are showing the world what has always been true: women are talented students, hard-working employees, and formidable power players in a dynamic world. In turn, men are changing their expectations too, and largely welcoming women as equals at home, at work, and in society broadly. Of course, there is still much work left to do. Women workers continue to face inordinate levels of harassment, gender discrimination, and hostility—especially in male-dominated industries. But change is possible. Landscapers across the country, both male and female, are working to create a more equitable workplace for all.
Welcoming Women into Landscaping
Sexist stereotypes are still one of the biggest obstacles that women face when entering the landscaping industry. Some landscapers question whether women are physically able to do the tough manual labor that landscaping crews do every day. Others question the amount of respect a woman can garner from clients and landscaping professionals. Ultimately, women who defy these stereotypes by entering the landscaping industry and working successfully as leaders and team members are testaments to what the landscaping industry stands to gain from shucking tired assumptions and welcoming women full-stop.
Industry experts have pointed out a number of reasons why women are valuable assets to all facets of the landscaping industry. Some things to consider:
- Modern tools and state-of-the-art equipment have made quality landscaping less dependent on physical brawn and more dependent on a strong work ethic and superior attention to detail—qualities that both men and women can exemplify.
- More women clients are taking the lead on making landscaping decisions and planning new projects. These clients appreciated seeing other women involved in the design and implementation process.
- Many women entering the landscaping field are graduating from college programs in specialized topics like horticulture, landscape design, and small business management. Their expertise should be seen as an invaluable tool.
- Many older women entering the landscaping industry come from long careers in business and customer service. They are well-versed in dealing with customers, and their communication skills and creativity are much-needed in every level of the industry.
- A more diverse workforce reflects the perspectives and needs of a more diverse client base. As your clients change, so should your workforce.
Recently, Total Landscape Care did a piece on women paving a path forward in green industry careers. These women speak to both the challenges and rewards of breaking ground in an industry in which they have minority status. The challenges may seem daunting to prospective female landscapers, but the bigger picture is this: women are showing the landscaping industry that they have something big to contribute, regardless of whatever obstacles await them. It’s not that they need our support to succeed, it’s that they deserve it–and we need them.