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A Longitudinal Study of Environmental Attitudes of Women and Gender Diversification in the U.S. Forest Service 1990–1996

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The USDA Forest Service has been dominated by white, male foresters. Beginning in the mid-1970s, the agency was compelled legally and morally to begin diversifying its workforce by race, gender, and profession. Concurrent with workforce diversification efforts, the agency confronted demands from the courts, Congress, and interest groups to change national forest management by emphasizing national forest preservation over the production of commodities such as timber and livestock forage. This study examines the role of women as potential organizational change agents by analyzing survey data collected from two national studies of the Forest Service in 1990 and 1996. Results from the 1996 study indicate that women continue to exhibit higher levels of general environmental concern than men, suggesting their role as potential “saviors” in helping the agency to make the transition to increased emphasis on ecosystem management. Conversely, diversification of the Forest Service workforce continues to be highly contentious, with some employees feeling that the recruitment and promotion of women without adequate training and/or experience have left the agency unprepared to meet complex demands. The inability of the Forest Service to satisfy multiple, conflicting constituencies in the face of agency downsizing suggests the role of women as “scapegoats,” whose perceived lack of experience is responsible for agency shortcomings. The authors suggest that the historical convergence of workforce diversification with changes in national forest policy inevitably place women in the conflicting roles of both “saviors” and “scapegoats.” FOR. SCI. 47(2):246–257.

Keywords: Environmental attitudes; affirmative action; environmental management; forest; forest management; forest resources; forestry; forestry research; forestry science; natural resource management; natural resources; organizational change; workforce diversification

Document Type: Miscellaneous

Affiliations: 1: Associate Professor Environmental Science Department, Alaska Pacific University, Anchorage, Alaska, 99508, (907) 564-8267 2: Professor Department of Resource Recreation and Tourism, College of Natural Resources, University of Idaho, Moscow, Idaho, 83843, (208) 885-7911

Publication date: May 1, 2001

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