Will mow for food
August 22, 2014 4:03 PM   Subscribe

What's it like being a woman in the landscaping industry?

I'm thinking of the kinds of jobs that have you outdoors all day rather than at a computer drafting garden designs. I'm also especially curious about "groundskeeping" jobs at universities. Are there still a lot of barriers to entry/are things extra-difficult for a woman in this field? Would it be a next-to-impossible field for a shy, very introverted woman? This field gets recommended a lot for quiet loner types, though I don't know if this recommendation applies mainly to men.

posted by silly me to Work & Money (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I've only known two women who worked in the landscaping business. Both are relatively introverted, both relatively masculine. One hated it (she worked for a university, which is what prompted me to answer) and quit almost immediately. The overwhelmingly misogynistic and homophobic attitudes really got to her. One opened her own business and does fairly well (after a few years of struggling to boot up her business, which happens in most businesses, actually). She's been going strong at it for more than 15 years. So there are your two extremes.

There's no harm in trying, if that's what you want to do.

For what it's worth, I tend to seek out women who do this kind of work (landscapers/gardeners, electricians, plumbers, etc.) when I need this kind of work done. I feel better throwing a woman my business and safer having women in my yard and home.
posted by GoLikeHellMachine at 4:58 PM on August 22, 2014

I have a female shy, introverted gardener and she is amazing. I can't speak to working in larger groups where you'd need to get along with co-workers, but she basically comes to the house and does a certain amount of work in the week (a few hours, we are one of many properties she works at), we communicate primarily by email, and once every few months we do a "walkabout" on the property where she talks about what her priorities are and what mine are and then we work out a work plan for the next few months. She's super reliable, very personable when she needs to be, but otherwise is basically a ghost, just shows up whenever and does her work. Some of it is just basic maintenance like weeding, deadheading and pruning and some of it is a little bit more nuanced like knowing which plants need more sun/shade/water and working to make the overall gestalt of the place work.

This house is in a sort of retirement/vacation community and there are a lot of people here with vacation homes that they want to keep looking nice even when they're not here much and would be happy to pay a solo person or two to handle that type of thing. There are also larger landscaping companies that do more than just lawn management and they seem to be more amenable to mixed gender groups and general good work environments. The lawn guys we have are all tanned bros who tool around on their giant lawn machines and I stay in side and avoid them even though they might be totally decent people, I just get a serious dude vibe off of them that makes me feel a bit skittish.
posted by jessamyn at 7:13 PM on August 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

I lived on Martha's Vineyard for several years and there were quite a few women working in landscaping there. A few of them had degrees in landscape architecture but most just enjoyed working outdoors with plants. Do you have a green thumb? (I have the opposite!) Are there any nurseries near you that might hire you? Check out your local cooperative extension office if you're in the US and see if they offer a master gardener program. Or take a horticulture course.
posted by mareli at 7:23 PM on August 22, 2014

My ma used to landscape for a retired Shakespeare studies professor, and she didn't have any of those sorts of problems because it was just her and that guy, and he was cool. Maybe you could find some little gigs if you're worried about jerks?
posted by oceanjesse at 8:11 PM on August 22, 2014

I think it depends somewhat on your location. Many of the workshops and classes I've taken have had speakers who worked as landscapers and horticulturalists for various city departments (transportation, utilities, parks, etc.) and people who owned their own businesses and there were at least as many women as men. Also many of the participants were women who worked in this field or owned their own businesses.

I'd also suggest looking up your local college horticulture or landscape horticulture programs, master gardener programs, state extension office, nurseries, etc. and ask them about the types of businesses you're interested in that are owned and/or operated by women.

If you have local gardening, food security, native plants, etc. advocacy organizations (where I am in Seattle there are many of these groups) you can ask them about women-owned businesses. Of course you can also take classes and/or volunteer with these kinds of programs and make contacts and network.
posted by sevenless at 8:17 PM on August 22, 2014

If you're thinking of starting a business rather than just finding a job, there's definitely a demand for women-owned landscaping contractors. I'm not sure where you're located, but most large cities on the east coast have minority and women participation requirements. The first step would be to contact your state and local minority affairs offices to learn about the requirements for registering a business.
posted by Ham Snadwich at 7:21 AM on August 26, 2014

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