Kim Eubanks, Orbis Inc. GIS Project Manager, Speaks About Her Time at Land & Ladies Conference and The Voice of Women Landowners
I’ve always loved and felt a deep connection to the outdoors. Being a native of Florida, I walked around barefoot for the first decade of my life. Naturally, once I was older, I knew I wanted my career to match my passion for the outdoors.
I was able to find this intersection at Orbis, Inc. where I currently work as a GIS project manager. Traditionally a field made up of mostly men, today there’s a solid representation of women working in GIS. The same can be said for the forestry industry. Whether initially stemmed from a love for the outdoors or integration into the field from a specialty like GIS, there are many opportunities for women in the sector both out in the field and in office settings.
Women in Land Ownership & Management
A unique role that can encompass both field and office work is land management or land ownership. Over 60 percent of land in the U.S. is privately owned. While much of this land is owned by companies, there are still millions of acres owned privately by individuals. Over time, more and more of these acres are falling into the hands of women.
Until recently, there were likely very limited resources that catered specifically to women landowners and women in forestry. Enter Land & Ladies. Started in 2020 by Danielle Atkins who previously attended the University of Georgia Warnell School of Forestry and worked for the Georgia Forestry Commission, the new forestry consulting organization aims to “enlighten, empower and enroot” women in land ownership and management.
Land & Ladies Woman’s Landowner Symposium 2021
With Orbis as an event sponsor, I attended the 2021 Land & Ladies Woman’s Landowner Symposium in Athens, Georgia. Both in person and virtually, the participants were women landowners and those looking to get into land ownership. Speakers and presenters included professors from forestry programs, as well as high-profile businesses in the industry.
The event was a great networking and learning opportunity for everyone and even included a “field trip” to Warnell School of Forestry’s research site nearby. During this session, attendees were given information about general forest stands, what to look for and recommendations for managing them— all from a female perspective, which was encouraging to be a part of.
The Voice of Women Landowners
Another session focused on the importance for women to engage in natural resources on their land and the planning around it. Essentially, showing up to the “table” and speaking your voice on important matters, like if and how the land will be used for recreational leasing. The session also touched on the overall importance for women landowners to be a part of decision making and building the confidence to do so.
I agree with this notion. I was reminded that I can affect change by showing up and being a part of discussions. If I do not show up, I am enabling an environment that is not representative of diverse opinions and insights. I think a lack of women representation in the industry now could potentially make it more difficult and uncomfortable for future women working in forestry.
I’ve experienced this within my own department at Orbis. Four years ago, I was the only female in my department. I made it a point to ask questions, voice my opinion and engage across the organization as much as I could. Since then, I moved into a position where I am regularly asked to sit at the table to provide my opinions, and I am pleased to say that we have a balanced ratio of females to males in our department. A key to this balance is aligning yourself with an organization whose leadership measures by talent over everything else.
How Can You Affect Change?
It got me thinking … where else in my life or in my career might I be able to sit at a table? Are decisions being made for me, or am I a part of the decision making? How can I affect change, especially change that aligns with my ideals of inclusivity, diversity, growth, success and compassion?
In terms of my career, I think attending and supporting events like the Land & Ladies Symposium was a good start. The underlying theme of empowering women can resonate within any industry. Specific to forestry, I am encouraged to see more women landowners getting involved and equipping themselves with the resources and knowledge to be successful in land management.
There is more information on how to get involved on the Land & Ladies website. I encourage everyone, both men and women, to seek out opportunities to keep learning and growing in your field. And if there is not a group that quite matches what you’re looking for— perhaps you’ll be the one to help affect that change.