Seeing the True Benefits of Investing in Diversity & Inclusion

October 31, 2022

By Nate Demby, Division Manager, Wright Tree Service

Nate Demby was a panelist during the “Diversity and inclusion does not belong on a checklist. Where do you belong?” discussion at the 2022 Trees and Utilities conference.

The 2022 Trees and Utilities Conference was an unforgettable experience for me. With over 800 attendees, and the opportunity to meet and socialize with professionals and innovators, this conference had something for every person and organization involved in this vital industry. 

My personal experience began with the honor of participating in the Empowering Women in Vegetation Management Workshop, which was the first event on the conference schedule and a wonderful launching pad for the week’s activities. I was tremendously humbled to be the first male on a strong and focused panel discussion, and I was welcomed by four distinguished and accomplished women – Lindsey Boyle (PG&E), Caitlin Pollihan (ISA), Susan Rossbach (Brains 4 Drones) and Maegan Mullinax (ACRT).

The panel discussion spanned the entire spectrum of complicated issues that women experience in this profession. I was truly educated by the variety, depth and intelligence of my co-panelists and the audience in attendance.

I was asked whether men could relate to what it might be like to be the only woman in a male-dominated environment. I expressed that, while I have been the only person of my demographic in many rooms, I cannot understand that exact dynamic faced by women in our industry. I cannot assume how it feels, but I can do my part to ensure that feeling is less and less prevalent by promoting acceptance and inclusion.

It is clear to me that diversity of all kinds is desperately needed to ensure we as an industry are equipped to handle the changing relationship between trees and utilities. As a father of five daughters, I feel an internal drive to make this career path viable and beneficial for everyone. As an industry, we have just started to see the true benefits of invested inclusion, and as events and collaborations such as Trees and Utilities continue to thrive, so will the people and the possibilities. 

As a person responsible for the care and environment provided for many people, it is my utmost honor and responsibility to be mindful of the obstacles in the way of true innovation. Trees and Utilities helped me to expand my vision, see the segments of the population that are ready for investment and opportunity, and align my efforts to accommodate change. 

The panelists and participants in the Empowering Women in Vegetation Management Workshop offered me a safe learning environment that was judgment free, honest and forgiving. This same environment is what I desire to provide for the women and men of this industry. Our measure of success will be told by the amount change that we can affect together. This experience has highlighted the fact that we are all stewards of someone else’s experience in this industry and that we have an active part to play in its health and ability to grow. By relying on each other and seeking those often-uncomfortable answers, we realize the solutions are already there, they simply need to be heard and empowered.