Jacqui Beban is used to being the only woman in the room.
Practically since birth, she has been exposed to the male-dominated and macho logging business. And last month she became the first female president in the 73-year history of the organization that speaks for the B.C. coast’s forestry industry.
Nanaimo-born Beban, 40, was vice-president of the Truck Loggers Association for two years before her Jan. 14 election as president, for a two-year volunteer term.
The non-profit represents more than 450 companies including independent sawmills, industry suppliers and independent harvesting contractors.
A 10-year member of the board, she and a partner own Nootka Sound Timber on Vancouver Island. Her family has been in the business for more than 100 years — her great-grandfather, two grandfathers and her father all owned logging companies.
Beban spoke to the Star by phone from Vancouver Island.
There’s a recent picture of your board of directors, showing you surrounded by 17 men. What’s it like being the only woman in most of the situations you’re in?
I’ve grown up in this industry. I was 6 weeks old when I went to my first logging camp and our summers were spent in logging camps. I’ve been around these people, mostly men, all of my life. So it’s normal to me.
We’ve heard about harassment in the military, the police. When there are only one or two women in a male-dominated scenario, sometimes things get difficult in terms of comments, and feeling uncomfortable. Have you had to deal with that?
I don’t have to deal with that. The guys I’m around are incredibly respectful. I’ve never been put in a position where I’ve been uncomfortable.
You’ve been deeply involved in the logging industry for some time now?
At age 24 I took over (the family business) as general manager. (Before that) I worked in the shop, ordering and delivering parts for any of our logging equipment, and learning more the mechanical side of the business, and then I worked in the office, doing administrative roles, visiting camps and learning about the business at an operational level.
Can you tell us a bit about your family?
I recently married in Bhutan, and had a traditional Bhutanese wedding. We went hiking in the Himalayas and were married in a monastery surrounded by monks. Then we married in August at our house (in a ceremony) for the family. (Beban’s husband is a faller — he cuts down trees with a chainsaw. They have no children).
What is your vision for your new role as president of the Truck Loggers Association?
Contractor sustainability is really at the top of our agenda — ensuring our members and the contractors who do the work in the bush are able to get paid a fair rate so they can pay their employees good wages, they can support the communities they live in, and reinvest in their business so we have continuity.
At the end of the day they also need to see a return on their investment. These logging contractors invest millions and millions to get into businesses.
Do you have other goals?
Building relationships is another focus, whether with government, other forest associations, First Nations communities, other stakeholders.
Safety is an issue we’ll continue to focus on. (There were eight logging deaths in B.C. last year). We want to ensure everyone has the ability to come home safe at the end of the day (with) different types of policies and training that we can help with, to promote a safer work environment.