Women In The Green Industry: Cindy Schwab of Davey Tree Expert Co. Wins Unsung Hero Award

A true unsung hero, Cindy Schwab's career highlights include those moments when she's used her voice to uplift others in the industry. Here's her story of how she does so.

L to R: Cindy Schwab, Natalie McNeill and Maria Tranguch at Davey's Colorado Women's+ Event this year.
L to R: Cindy Schwab, Natalie McNeill and Maria Tranguch at Davey's Colorado Women's+ Event this year.
Davey Tree Expert Co.

Unsung Hero: Cindy Schwab, Operations talent manager, The Davey Tree Expert Co.

Cindy Schwab, RC Operations Talent Manager at Davey Tree Expert Co., started in the green industry when she was 15 years old working as a cashier at a garden center.

With a fascination for the plant world, she pursued an education at the University of Wisconsin Stevens Point, where she earned degrees in urban forestry and parks and recreation. She later attained an MBA from National Lewis University

“That eventually laid the groundwork for me in the green industry,” Schwab says.

Schwab worked as a technician, focusing on climbing and plant health care, and after that, using her keen sense for business along with her natural ability to connect, she transitioned into sales within the arboriculture industry. Schwab had also managed at two landscape companies, Grow Rite and Poul’s Landscaping.

An ISA Certified Arborist, SHRM Senior Certified Professional and a Certified Diversity Executive (CDE), Schwab eventually started as a recruiter at Davey before being promoted to recruiting manager for the West and Midwest.

An ISA Certified Arborist, SHRM Senior Certified Professional and a Certified Diversity Executive (CDE), Schwab eventually started as a recruiting manager for the western U.S. at Davey Tree Expert Co. in 2019.

“The allure of joining a larger organization was compelling for two main reasons: the vast array of opportunities on offer and the extensive knowledge to be acquired from a varied team,” Schwab says. “Additionally, Davey's status as an employee-owned company struck a chord with me, promoting a sense of collective achievement and mutual accountability.”

At Davey, in addition to her everyday duties of nurturing talent, promoting diversity and driving sustainable growth, Schwab takes the time to mentor other women in the company and is involved in several initiatives both inside and outside of Davey, making her the winner of this year’s Unsung Hero Award.

“I couldn’t feel more honored to be chosen,” Schwab says. “To be a woman in the green industry means breaking barriers, fostering inclusivity, leading by example and creating a more diverse and dynamic industry to help move the green industry ahead.”

Empowering others

In true unsung hero fashion, when asked about her biggest highlights within her career, Schwab says it’s the opportunities she’s had to lift others in the industry up.

“I’ve had opportunities to help people learn English, help individuals increase their literacy, encourage teammates to seek citizenship, help individuals move into leadership roles,” Schwab says. “Those have been my most significant successes in the industry—the opportunities to help others grow and help give others a voice.”

Schwab doesn’t just talk the talk by using her voice to give others one—she also walks the walk.

Her community engagements and industry contributions include:

  • The Green of Detroit and Chicago Openlands, which directly contributes to urban reforestation efforts.
  • American Forests/Tazo Tea Project, which expands urban forests, thus contributing to the mitigation of climate change effects in urban areas.
  • Chicago Urban Forestry Council, for which Schwab has influenced urban forestry policies and practices, advocating for sustainable urban landscaping and the maintenance of green spaces.
  • Park Commission for the Town of Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin, which enhances local park and recreation areas and contributes to the well-being of community members and the environment.
  • Wisconsin Arborist Association, for which she teaches certified arborist classes and consults with technical schools on their arboriculture programs.
  • The Tour des Trees, a significant event benefiting the TREE Fund. In 2022, Schwab embarked on a challenging 440-mile bike ride across western Iowa and Nebraska, as part of a team representing Davey.

“The thing I’m involved with that I’m most excited about is the Chicago Urban Forestry Advisory Board, where we were tasked with investigating and offering recommendations on tree-related issues in alignment with the city's our routes Chicago initiative,” Schwab says. “One of Chicago's goals is to expand the tree canopy in Chicago through an equitable approach to every neighborhood, leaving no neighborhood behind. I'm really excited about that because we know there are inequities in tree canopy within the U.S. and in particular major cities.”

Another large focus of Schwab’s, since she’s been at Davey, has been to further the company’s justice, equity, diversity and inclusion initiatives.

In doing so, she’s promoted workplace inclusion; shared gender and race demographic data within her company to exude transparency; rewritten job descriptions to be more inclusive and attract a wider range of diverse talent; educated male leadership teams on the importance of diversity; and served as a leadership member in Davey’s Women’s+ & Underrepresented Genders Workshops, where women can share experiences, challenges and achievements.

“My absolute favorite part of the green industry is that it’s such a diverse group of people who share a passion for the natural world,” Schwab says. “However, we need increased representation and more diverse voices at all levels, but especially in leadership roles, to reflect our communities and bring a broader range of perspectives to the table.”

She adds that the industry could also use more cultural competency training that educates those in the industry on the value of diversity and teaches skills to work effectively in diverse environments, as well as more outreach initiatives to connect with individuals from underrecognized groups.

Finding her voice

Having been in the industry for decades, Schwab admits that for the majority of her career, she didn’t have any women colleagues.

“It made it really hard to discuss my challenges from not having correctly fitting uniforms to the mental exhaustion from constantly feeling different from everyone else,” Schwab says. “One of the ways I have overcome this challenge is to find really solid allies. The other thing that has helped me is finding my voice and speaking up for others, which has really made me feel empowered and has hopefully helped others feel empowered as well.”

Looking back, she says she would’ve spoken up sooner about inequities faced by individuals from underrecognized groups.

“I feared I would be considered a problem if I did, but as I become older and when I became a mom, I realized that I wanted to work for an industry that I could be proud of for my daughter and that I didn’t want her to face the same challenges that I went through,” Schwab says. “If she wanted to come work in the green industry, I wanted it to be an equitable place for her to work.”

Schwab found that the more she used her voice, the more she was supported by others, rather than being considered a problem.

“I’m not saying we’ve overcome the problems in the industry, but I am recognizing that we’re gaining momentum and allies every day, which is inspiring,” Schwab says.

Moving forward, Schwab’s goals include continuing to advocate for diversity and inclusion within the industry.

“I think there’s still a lot of work to be done and a lot of voices to be heard,” Schwab says. “We need to create a bigger table and have more seats at that table.”