Louise O’Connell has worked as Strategy and Performance Manager, including the Chief Financial Officer function, at NML for 17 years. She is a member of the company’s Lead Team. Prior to taking on her current role she was a Business Planning Manager for Fletcher Challenge Forests.
People are what make the job enjoyable, according to Louise. “It’s the great down-to-earth people I work with who really care about their colleagues. Multiplicity is also a word that comes to mind – Health and Safety, the environment, community, growing and harvesting a forest, shipping, currency shifts, global dynamics, weather and fire risks. This business has it all and it’s a really dynamic environment to work in. It’s never boring!”
Louise admits that twenty years ago forestry was a hard environment for women to feel comfortable in.
“Things have changed enormously and these days women are still treated differently but in a very positive way. I think the industry now recognises the different perspective that women can bring to the table to enhance outcomes on all manner of issues and those opinions are sought out and respected.
“At NML we have a great group of extremely capable, smart women who are very well regarded and who have roles across all facets of our business. As a group I would say we just don’t tolerate any type of discrimination and in the NML environment we don’t have to!”
The public perception of forestry is that it is still a male-dominate industry, but probably because the general public only tends to the see the operational side of the business, says Heather.
“They see logging activity, trucks carrying logs, and silviculture activities more than the planning and management where women tend to take up roles. It’s really just not being aware of the number of women who are involved in the industry. Once people ask about the business they are keen to know more. They often have daughters who they are very keen to see take up a role in a New Zealand industry sector that offers so much opportunity.”
As someone who has led the way for women at NML Louise encourages young women to consider forestry and, if they are interested, to come and see what NML is all about. “Come and visit our operations for a day. This will give you a chance to see the many different roles there are within the industry and how dynamic those roles are. From logistics to finance, GIS work, information technology, operational management, sales, Health and Safety and the environment. There is no doubt that there will be an area that will interest you. You will also rub shoulders with a group of fantastic, genuine people who will only be too eager to help.”