Horticulture, by its very nature, has been a self-perpetuating male-dominated industry.
Encouraging Women in Horticulture Australia Inc (EWHA) was established to assist the increasing number of women in the industry. One of its primary objectives is to create an open forum where they may network with and provide support for one another.
Some women enter horticulture at a mature age and, because of their domestic responsibilities, do not experience or enjoy the peer group support on which their younger counterparts so often rely.
EWHA is a group that is refreshing in that it is non-exclusive and welcomes all women working in horticulture as members, be they as employees, employers, managers, students or principals of horticultural businesses.
We include and welcome casual or part-time garden maintenance personnel, mature age students, retail nursery sales and marketing staff, family members of nursery owners, unqualified garden designers, qualified horticulturists, landscape architects, educators, gardening media, florists, fruit and vegetable growers.
All too frequently, women working in these industry sectors have been excluded from industry-based organisations because they lack formal qualifications. This is especially so where prospective members applying to such organisations must comply with high level professional credentials demanded.
Each woman is a well established professional in her area of expertise, but worked in comparative isolation. There were few opportunities for women in their own right to network, support or encourage other women working in similar circumstances.
After meeting up with one another at the 2007 Melbourne International Flower Show, they decided to get together again a short time later and invited a few other industry women they had each recruited in the meantime. And so the seeds were sown.
After months of hard work and a lot of communication with other industry-based associations, the group held its first function on a balmy late summer’s evening in early 2008.
‘A Night Above the Town’ took place on top of an apartment complex with stunning city views on the edge of Melbourne’s CBD – and 73 women from all sectors of the horticultural industry attended! There were landscape designers, nursery workers, teachers, media presenters, gardeners, administrators – you name it, they were there.
Since then, the group has developed considerably and has held a number of very successful functions. It now has in excess of 80 members, a contact list of industry women across Australia, a very active committee and plans you wouldn’t believe!
On the drawing board are professional development courses, tours and importantly for women who often work alone in their own businesses, social and networking functions.
The membership is diverse not only in the fields in which the women work, but also in terms of distance. Some travel several hundred kilometres just to attend meetings, so pleased are they to find an organisation that not only listens to them as horticulturists, but understands their frustrations in working in a predominantly male environment.
Special mention needs to be made about Dawn Fleming from Flemings Nursery. Dawn was the driving force and inspiration behind EWHA from its inception, as the founding chairperson and until 2014 when she stepped down from the role of President.
Dawn observed, in both retail garden centres and commercial orchardist sectors, the unsung work that women do in this industry.
Dawn noticed that frequently, women working in horticulture and allied industries had been excluded from industry-based organisations because they lack formal qualifications.
This is especially so where prospective members applying to such organisations must comply with high level professional credentials demanded.
Dawn was strongly motivated to create a group which would comprise of women of all ages who work in all sectors of horticulture. She wanted to to provide them with a platform to share their stories and network with each other and with others in the horticulture community.
Dawn Fleming receiving her EWHA Lifetime Membership Certification in 2015 from Sue Vernes, then EWHA President.