ILCA Women’s Networking Group

The Gender of Expertise by Scott Grams by sgramsilca
February 10, 2010, 10:44 pm
Filed under: 1

2009-2010 was the first year ILCA put together the educational program for the MidAmerica Horticultural Show held on January 19-22, 2010 at McCormick Place in Chicago. ILCA, in conjunction with IGIA organized 32 educational sessions and three workshops spread across three days.

The usual refrain about the green industry is that it’s a “male dominated industry.” I am sure that, counting crews, that is true. What startled me about the educational programs that ILCA developed was the number of women picked as speakers because of their knowledge, expertise, and educational background.

The ILCA Education Committee never went out and tried to pick an equal number of men and women to serve as speakers. The Committee didn’t care. They wanted to find the most credible speakers on the relevant topics the Committee selected. I never once heard “we should get a female speaker” over the 9 months of planning that went into the 2010 MidAm educational program.

41% of ILCA’s speakers at MidAm were female for the ILCA-sponsored educational sessions. The following women donated their time to speak at the 2010 MidAm tradeshow:

Karla P.Lynch, The Morton Arboretum
Lori Vierow, Planning Resources
Karen Morby, Robert Ebl, Inc.
Pat Sund, Countryside Industries
Kathy Richardson, Grant & Power Landscaping
Keidra Chaney, The Web Farm
Terre Houte, Hursthouse, Inc.
Terry Guen, ASLA, Terry Guen Design Associates, Inc.
Melissa Osuch, HR Consultants
Grace Koehler, Midwest Groundcovers

If the Education Committee started out with the goal of making sure 40% of the speakers were female, it would be noble. Yet, those forced quotas seem disingenuous. Are we really going after the best if we start from a shrunken, identifiable, gender-based pool? I was more pleased by Education Committee’s mandate to find the best speakers available.

There are still major salary incongruities for women and men. women still own far fewer companies and businesses than men. There are only 6 WBE-certified landscape contractors in Chicago and 3 in Cook County. There are still long strides for women business owners and employees to overcome. What pleased me about the MidAm educational programs was the gender blindness that expertise and knowledge can cause. If I need the best brain surgeon, I don’t care if it’s a man, woman, or labrador retriever. I want the best. The same rings true when you want the best horticulturalist, HR professional, marketing director, or sustainable designer.

Salaries and job titles carry so much social baggage. For many, it’s impossible to put a wrench between job and gender. The green industry may be male-dominated but MidAm showed it relies on the expertise of women to move it forward. I was glad that came to light in our Education Committee’s blind search for talented presenters. 41% is still not a majority…but it’s a far cry from male domination.


1 Comment so far
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Kudos and nods to you for a thoughtful, balanced post. (But you know I’m not biased!)

Comment by Terre Houte

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