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08 March 2022

Celebrating Women in Horticulture | #InternationalWomensDay

With International Women’s Day and National Careers Week taking place simultaneously this week, we saw it as the perfect opportunity to promote women in horticulture and discuss what can be done to encourage more women into the industry.

Horticulture is currently facing a skills shortage. According to RHS, 70% of businesses struggle to find the skilled workers they require, and 83% say this is due to the poor perception of horticulture in schools and colleges.

Additionally, the Horticulture Sector Skills Survey found that 38% of workers within the industry are female. In sub-sectors, the gender gap is even more prominent, with only 20% of arboriculture workers and 24% of landscaping workers being female.

Encouraging more women into the industry can help fill the skills gap, but we need to build more awareness of what roles are available and discourage the belief that the industry is just for males. Speaking to the women working at idverde, we found out more about their experience in their roles and what they think we can do to promote the industry to more women.

International Womens Day

Georgina Smith works as a Grounds Maintenance Operative based in Warwick.

Speaking about what started her career, Georgina says: “I’ve always worked in farming and with tractors. When the opportunity came up to do the same thing but in horticulture, I took it.

“I grew up on a farm, so I’ve always been familiar with the industry. This led me to go to agricultural college to further my understanding and gain a qualification. Starting my career was the next step.”

“I’ve never really worked indoors as it’s never interested me; working in the outdoors is much more natural to me.”

Georgina works throughout the year and says that one of the exciting parts of the role is the seasonality.

“My role changes depending on the season. At the moment, it’s a bit of tractor work if the ground is strong enough. And then the rest of the time it’s hand cutting and raking up. In the summer, we complete tractor work such as baling and tedding. It is tractor based work, but with a lot of hand work. We usually have a core jobs list throughout the year. We’ll do the same jobs every season, but with a different take on each bit.”

Horticulture benefits our lives in more ways than one. Having access to green outdoor spaces can positively impact our mental and physical health, and more greenery can help improve the air we breathe.

“I think outdoor spaces are a good place to go for walks and clear your head. If you’re trapped inside all the time, you need a bit of fresh air in your life. It can also encourage people to get out and exercise,” says Georgina.

Carolyn Lovejoy also works at idverde as a Head Gardener in Warwick and has 30 years of experience behind her. Speaking about how it all started, Carolyn says:

“It started when I was in my teenage years. I would help my dad with his allotment. I tried a few different jobs such as catering and working in a factory. I didn’t like any of them. A career in horticulture seemed like the natural thing to do, as I enjoyed gardening.”


Women in horticulture

 “Going back 30 years, I was the only female at the job where I was working, and I found it extremely difficult because back then, men didn’t tolerate women being able to do the same job as them. Attitudes have changed now, but I had to work twice as hard as any man to prove that I could do it.”

Women in horticulture

Despite the early challenges, Carolyn says that she’s been able to work on exciting projects throughout her career:

“Many years ago, I exhibited at the Chelsea Flower Show, the biggest landscaping show in the world, and got a silver-gilt. As well as that, I’ve done garden designs and have been able to go out with the teams and help bring the design to life – which was exciting.”

As the Head Gardener, Carolyn is responsible for taking care of the Grounds Maintenance at Jephson Gardens, situated in Leamington Spa.

“My role is very varied, and it’s very weather dependent. It’s not a glamorous job by any means. It’s usually pruning, edging grass, cultivating, spraying, and fertilizing. A bit of everything really!” says Carolyn.

Both Georgina and Carolyn are in agreement that more can, and should, be done to promote the industry to women.

“I believe that not everybody is academic, and not everybody wants to go to sixth form college or university. To get started in this career, you need to get the basics, do your NVQ, and then it’s learning on the job. For many people, it’s much more beneficial than sitting in a classroom all day, and we should be promoting this path more to them,” says Carolyn.

Asked what advice she would give to women wanting to get started, she says: “Give it a go. Don’t be put off by your fitness, personality, or anything else. You can be extremely outgoing, or you can be a total introvert. It doesn’t matter in this career because you can be whatever you want to be. Sometimes it can help to bring out the other side of you. If you are very shy it can bring you out of your shell, and if you are over the top, it can ground you a little bit.”

Similarly, Georgina thinks it’s essential to show how accessible the industry is to anyone wanting to join: “I think if someone is interested in horticulture, then they’re probably already considering a career in the industry. For others who don’t know much about the industry, it is about letting them know that it’s quite accessible. If you are a complete beginner, there is so much training you can do to get you started.”

As for her advice to women, Georgina says: “Just go for it. Don’t worry about what anyone thinks or says about you. Give as good as you get.”

If you would like to start a new career in horticulture, visit our vacancies page to apply.