Girl Power

by | Jun 3, 2021 | Landscape Architecture, People

Deborah Cole says it’s time for the green industry to change the rules and improve the game.  

In her leadership book “Wolfpack,” two-time Olympic gold medalist Abby Wambach speaks to those who understand that sometimes a game must be changed in order to improve it. She writes, “If we keep playing by the old rules, we will never change the game.” 

Today, our green industry career game suggests that we have total freedom to be or do whatever we desire—all in the pursuit of how we live out our life’s purpose. On close examination, is this accurate?  Have we really “come a long way, baby” as the old commercial of the 70s suggests? Wambach also writes that old rules of her sport say to “play it safe and pass the ball.” New rules are “believe in yourself and demand the ball.” This might also be applied to the professional path of women in the green industry. 

Some of the old unwritten rules which exist for women include:  act like a lady, be grateful for what you are given, be patient and wait for permission to lead, and finally, simply stay in your lane. Women in past decades did not vote, did not maintain their own bank accounts or credit cards, did not work after marriage or childbirth, and those who did work were primarily in support roles rather than leadership. As a successful landscape business owner on the cusp of elevation to the presidency of the state contractors association, I was asked if I thought I could handle all of the duties. I was pregnant at the time. Old rules have been unraveling since the 1960s and fortunately women of today no longer must settle for the limitations of past generations. We accept the role of game changers in our personal as well as professional lives.

Although, the days of “less than” are nearing the end, there is still progress to be made. Companies such as LandCare are actively working to provide opportunities for women as well as role models in management. Mark Hopkins, Executive Vice President, is very proud of the Women’s Initiative Network in their company. This group founded by and led by women focuses on female mentorship and coaching within LandCare to develop allies for women in business. They also direct a male-focused educational program to help bring awareness of issues impacting women in the workplace. As Hopkins says, “the overall reason for the program is because it’s the right thing to do.”

Today, we have a female vice president of the United States for the first time. Women own 40 percent of all of the businesses in the US and approximately 30 percent of all senior management is female. In the green industry, we cannot yet claim these numbers. It is up to all of us, men and women, to change the rules and improve the game.  


Deborah Cole is the founder of a commercial landscape firm with multiple locations throughout Texas. She now devotes herself full-time to photography, writing, marketing and training.


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