Meet Megan Finlay.

Planning Forester - Registered Professional Forester

Sudbury, ON

What inspired you to enter and pursue this field?

I was inspired to study an environmental field by spending time outdoors hiking, camping and working. I wanted to make a difference and help create an environmental that my grandchildren could enjoy.


How did you come to be in this position?

I started my journey by attending York University to play on their hockey team while studying environmental sciences. Passionate about the environment and the functions of ecosystems, I pursued my Masters in Forest Conservation at the University of Toronto. I had the opportunity to study a variety of forestry topics and was even able to conduct field work in Malaysia. I was lucky enough to land an internship with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF)– Aviation Forest Fire and Emergency Services before finishing up my program.

I then moved 8 hours north to Kirkland Lake to start my career in forestry. I had the opportunity to learn all aspects of forest management in Ontario and found myself inspired by forest management planning. I moved to Timmins where I worked with the MNRF again supporting forest management plans in north-eastern Ontario. I did not spend much time in Timmins before I had the opportunity to move back to forest industry, working on forest management operations and writing a 10-yr forest management plan in Sudbury. As I finalize the forest management plan, I look forward to finding out what challenge I will face next.


What were some difficulties you faced in your field?

Forestry is often referred to as an “Old Boys Club” because the field is mostly dominated by middle aged men. It is extremely challenging coming into a field where you are often the only female at meetings and working in the middle of the forest with only men. It is also hard to convince these coworkers to listen to you and your expertise, whether or not you are in a supervisor position. I believe that most difficult aspect I have faced is having my voice heard.


What advice would you give young women looking to enter your current line of work?

Continue to work hard and commit to perseverance. You will have to start at the bottom to make it to the top but nothing amazing comes easy. Never stop giving it your all.


Share a personal story or example of a challenging situation you faced in your path to your career.

Many people misunderstand what sustainable forestry is and there is a stigma around certain forestry practices. The public is passionate about their forests and how it should be managed. A part of my role is to present our forest management plan and consult with members of the public. This can be a difficult task.

At public open houses, I have been called a ‘little girl’ and have been asked if there was someone more ‘important’ who knew more about the operations proposed in the plan. As the plan author of the forest management plan, I knew the plan like the back of my hand and had plenty of knowledge to share about forestry in Ontario. I felt that, even if I stood on a chair and screamed, no one would listen given my age and gender. I struggle with the knowledge that sometimes people choose not to listen to my opinion, explanation or reasoning because of my gender.


What do you see as some positives of being a woman in your field?

The positives are that this male dominated field is changing and there are more females joining every day. Women in forestry are growing. There are many wonderful programs such as Next Generation Women who are here to help young females navigate the challenges they may face and support them throughout their career.


Why do you want to be involved with New Generation Women, and what does this initiative mean to you?

I was hesitant to start a career in forestry, afraid of what challenges I may face given my gender. It wasn’t until my second year of work when I found female role models who could support me and provide guidance. I wish this could have happened sooner. I would like to pay back the support I received throughout my career to a young female who is interested in joining forestry. I hope that I can help them navigate the field and help them solve any problems or difficulties they face.

New Generation Women means that there are resources to support young women and no one will have to pursue their passion with the fear that their gender will impact their career.


Contact Megan via email at: mjefinlay@gmail.com


Follow Megan on LinkedIn.

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