The woodworking industry has long been composed of a predominantly male demographic, but over the past 30 years an increasing number of women have become interested in the woodworking field and how they can become a part of it - whether that be by adopting it as a hobby, working in the professional production of wood and wood products or entering into management and ownership. The recent explosion of DIY and Maker Culture in American society has begun to motivate its people to go back and work with their hands again like those that came before us did, and we can clearly see that having an impact on the industry today.
In addition to - or possibly because of - the aforementioned cultural movements that have been growing their reach for more than a decade in the United States, we've begun to see woodworking collectives and community woodshops popping up everywhere. These organizations allow for woodworkers to sharpen their talents and use larger and more expensive equipment when it might otherwise not be available to them. Some, like Offerman Wood Shop, employ independent contractors to create custom furniture pieces for private clients as well as items that are sold in other avenues and other, smaller shops may simply provide a place for DIY'ers to try their hand at woodworking projects.
After several years of struggling, the woodworking industry is again starting to grow and with that growth comes new technologies, new ideas and new kinds of employees. The future of woodworking will likely depend on intelligence, creativity and motivation as primary character traits rather than the more purely physical ones that were required before machinery and automation became as advanced as they are today and will be tomorrow. How can we continue to fan the flames and attract more women to the industry? This conversation between a few intelligent, creative and motivated women that work in the industry will touch upon that and many other points of discussion.
Ann Jackson is Chairman of Rockler Companies, Inc. The company, a supplier of woodworking hardware, supplies and tools, operates retail stores, a catalog under the name of Rockler Woodworking and Hardware, and websites, including rockler.com.
Ann Jackson’s dedication and hard work for over 40 years, along with many talented staff members, has fueled the company’s growth. Along with the stewardship of her team, she has expanded the catalog’s mailing to several million, and opened 29 retail stores across the U.S.
Ann Jackson received her Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Minnesota and is currently working on a master’s degree in design at the same institution.
Lee began working with wood at age seven through the Kids Carpentry program in her hometown of Berkeley, CA. Years later, while studying art and philosophy at Brown University (BA '00), she started building sets for theater. She worked as a scenic carpenter and instructor of scenic arts before eventually moving into building interactive science exhibits for the Exploratorium Museum in San Francisco. Lee moved to Los Angeles in 2008, where she now manages the Offerman Woodshop- a collective of independent woodworkers. She designs and builds custom furniture & exhibits. Lee is a visiting lecturer of woodworking & design at Cal State Long Beach and a member of the LA Box Collective.
Laurel Didier is Publisher of Vance Publishing Corp.’s Woodworking Network division. Laurel has been with Vance’s Wood division for more than 30 years. She oversees Woodworking Network's magazine, website and live events.