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WIU Professor Becomes Society of American Foresters Fellow

Aug 27, 2013

Some careers and sciences are largely dominated by men. This is especially true for forestry.

In fact a survey of female members of the Society of American Foresters in the early 90’s, found that a majority said they thought that the perception of forestry as a ‘male profession’ was a primary reason why more women were not pursuing a career in the field.

I chose forestry as a biologist really, as an ecologist, to be outside and spend my time in the woods
Susan Romano teaches GIS courses at WIU's QC's Riverfront campus and is a new member of the Society of American Foresters.
Credit WIU

At that time Western Illinois University Biology Professor Susan Romano was working as a private forestry consultant.

Actually she was the only female private consulting forester in the country. Now she has been named as a Society of American Foresters fellow.

Romano, who joined the group as an undergraduate in 1982, said becoming a fellow wasn't easy.  According to data from the SAF only five percent of it's 12,000 members ever become fellows.

The Society of American Foresters was founded in 1900 by Gifford Pinchot, the first head of the US Forest Service, and is the largest professional organization for foresters in the world.

She said that growing up she was interested in science but forestry had something special to offer.

"As a high school student my image of a biologist was being inside in a lab, and that really wasn't what I wanted to do," Romano said, "I chose forestry as a biologist really, as an ecologist, to be outside and spend my time in the woods."

She said that while she would like to see more female consulting foresters, the number has increased. She also said the US forest service has made concentrated efforts to hire women.

Currently 13 percent of the SAF's members are women including the president of the group's Council.

Romano said that in her classes now, most of the graduate students are women and she said that there some conversations about forestry that you can only have with other women.

"Who are you are going to talk to about a chainsaw? What is the appropriate size chainsaw for a women to use as far as balance and weight, and what kind of job you're doing?" Romano said.

She was quick to add how talented her current crop of students are, men and women both, and that they are finding jobs in the conservation field.