Women’s History Month: Spotlight on Jessica Dubois Martel

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March is Women’s History Month in the United States, providing a prime opportunity to celebrate the accomplishments of our female leaders. In this series, we’re featuring three women who hold leadership positions in our organization. We hope their perspectives will inspire a deeper appreciation of the impact women have in the forest products industry and beyond. 

Meet Jessica Dubois-Martel, mill manager at Resolute’s Larouche and Saint-Prime (Quebec) engineered wood products facilities.

What was your path to becoming a leader?

I discovered the world of forest products during my studies. As I learned more about the field, I knew I wanted to pursue a career in wood transformation. After completing a bachelor’s degree in wood engineering and a graduate degree in forest carbon management, I returned to my roots in Lac-Saint-Jean (Quebec) and joined Resolute as a quality and optimization supervisor. After serving in a number of technical and managerial roles, I was appointed mill manager of the Larouche and Saint-Prime engineered wood products facilities in 2021. 

What do you enjoy about working in this industry?

I like the fact that things are tangible, that we have to do more to maximize our resource and to get the most out of every cubic meter of wood, of every board foot. I really think I have a positive impact by working with a renewable, green resource. I love collaborating with the regional communities, supporting their development and seeing the actual impact on them. I also appreciate the industry’s evolution, its historical role and all its technological innovations of recent years.

What are you most proud of regarding the operations or the company?

The complete utilization of the tree; from fiber to engineered wood products. I love having the opportunity to help maximize the value of our forest products in high-performance mills supplying a demanding market that pushes us to be the best.

What do you expect from your employees? 

The main thing for me is that they work safely – that they can go home healthy and enjoy their free time with their families. Next, I expect them to work as a team to innovate and find solutions that push boundaries. By leveraging the strength of the team, we can achieve results faster and resolve issues that can seem complex.

What are the easiest and hardest parts of being a mill manager? 

We deal with challenges such as ensuring the availability of our raw input, which in our case is fiber, and recruitment. We also manage multiple issues simultaneously, so it’s important to prioritize and lead the team the right way. 

The easiest thing for me is to synthesize information and to choose the appropriate resource to resolve an issue or to get better results. 

What challenges did you face as a woman in a traditionally male-dominated industry? 

I haven’t faced any major challenges. I’ve been lucky to work with great teams, with people who are welcoming and open. Working alongside them for several years in technical roles allowed me to build relationships and credibility, so my move into a management position happened quite naturally.

For me, being seen as credible by your team is the key to integrating successfully into a traditionally male-dominated field. You have to take the time to understand your environment and team so that you can zero in on issues and priorities. After that, it’s easier to lead with conviction while respecting human and professional values. 

On a more personal note, with three kids in preschool and elementary school, balancing work and family is challenging. But being organized in both my personal and professional life helps me reconcile everything and achieve a healthy balance.

Whom do you look up to for inspiration? Are there women who have mentored you during your career?

Unlike other women in the industry who’ve had female role models, my leadership role models have been men. At the start of my career, I had colleagues who helped me succeed and who gave me important technical tools. I was also fortunate to have inspiring bosses with solid management values. I still refer to these models when I make decisions and take positions on complex matters.

What advice would you offer women considering careers in forest products?

First, be confident. Make sure you want to be in this industry, in this environment, and want to take up this kind of challenge. Be yourself and express your opinions and views to your team. Make sure you’re open to learning and can adapt quickly.

Accept that everything can’t always be perfect. It’s hard to be a perfect mother and a perfect employee at the same time. 

We’re seeing an influx of women in the industry, which is terrific. Some people might think that mills are physically demanding or even dirty workplaces, but that’s not the reality. In engineered wood products facilities in particular, the workplace is adapted to women, whichever team they’re on – production, maintenance or management. I would encourage women considering forestry careers to challenge their assumptions and learn more about the many opportunities available.   

Favorite cause: Local community development.

Quotation: “There’s more courage than talent in most successes.” – Félix Leclerc

Source: The Resolute Blog