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Business Owners & Managers

Women in the Industry - Sierra Saint

"Don't stop - just prove!"

Inspiring words from Sierra Saint, our first featured Women in the Industry. Perceptions may take time to change when it comes to women being "accepted" in the landscaping and lawn care profession but, as Sierra points out, perception means little when her and her fellow women pros are just getting on with making their business succeed.

What was your biggest motivation to get into the landscaping business?
My biggest motivation for getting into the landscaping business was to provide for my family. Also, to build a company that will help others provide for their family.

What would you say are the biggest barriers in perception when it comes to hiring female landscapers?
The biggest barriers are companies believing that they have to change because of a female employee, and that work won't be done in the same time or manner. The biggest barrier of hiring a female landscaper is it's not common to see women doing this kind of work.

Have you ever experienced a difficult client who was not open to working with a female landscaper?
Luckily I have not had to experience a client unwilling to work with me. I do get the "Are you serious? You're going to do this?" look. When I get that look I make sure I do an even better job, because the "Wow, she did it and it looks great!" look is even better.

Why do you think people are still surprised to see female landscapers, despite a large number of female graduates from landscape architecture courses?
I think people are still surprised to see female landscapers because it is common to think of men when thinking of landscaping. You don't see women landscaping like you see men. People don't see women on big mowers cutting grass, or see them hauling mulch and getting dirty. You don't see women in any landscaping related ads or commercials. You don't believe they are actually doing the work until you see it.

Do you think executives at large organizations shy away from giving contracts to women? What can be done to change this mentality?
Yes, I do think they tend to shy away from giving contracts to women. I believe it is because they don't think they're qualified for the job. I don't think it's intentional - it's just what people are used to. I think if there were more posts, ads, videos, commercials and pictures of women landscapers doing the work, it would change the perception of women in the industry. Even in movies and shows landscapers are men. People need to see women doing the work and getting dirty, not a clean model on a riding mower!

How can a landscaping company better prepare itself to hire a qualified female professional?
I think companies need to change their perception of women doing this kind of work. Don't change their expectations, or what they expect from their employees, because they are of a different sex. I do believe, though, that it's vital to inform your male crew members about sexual harassment and the importance of respecting their female coworkers. Make sure they understand that a joke can be perceived as something different, that way no one will be left wondering or uncomfortable.

Was there a moment or day in your career where you thought: "This is just not meant for me"?
Once, my first year in the field. It was the middle of the summer and it was like 90o out and I had a huge mulch job to do. I was like half way through and I just stopped and thought to myself, "What am I thinking? This is not for me, I'm more of the indoor behind the scene kind of person." As I was thinking that my client called out, "Everything looks great!" and just like that I remembered why it's perfect for me.

Has the culture of women empowering movements of the last few years impacted the status of female landscapers in the industry?
Absolutely! Right now, women are out to prove that they are perfectly capable of doing whatever they put their minds to. Women are getting out of the "that's a man's job" mentality and going for it.

What's the one piece of advice you'd give women who are considering working in this industry or starting a landscaping/lawn care business of their own?
My one piece of advice for any woman looking to enter this industry is to not take things too personal. What I mean by that is, don't let the weird looks, the comments from friends, or the many "Are you sure?" questions stop or delay your progress. People are not used to seeing us yet - changing what people are used to is always difficult, but that makes it even more rewarding. So don't stop - just prove!

About Sierra:

Sierra Saint is the co-owner of One Love Lawn LLC, which she established in 2013 with her husband Nick. Serving central Ohio, Sierra and Nick's mantra is simple - each client could be your last, so treat them like they're your first and never take their trust in your business for granted. You can find more from Sierra on Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and Twitter.

Are you (or do you know) a woman professional in the lawn care and landscaping industry, or know a women-owned business? We'd love to hear your story - you can share it with us by using the "Tell Us Your Story" section at the bottom of our home page.