Women in Landscaping: local company mowing down gender stereotypes
Look out for these local, leading ladies as they break through traditionally male-dominated positions in the landscape-construction industry.
K&D Landscaping Inc. was founded by Kendel & Dawn White in 1986 right here on the Central Coast. The married couple worked as a team to mold the booming business that stands today. While Kendel directed the technical and outward-facing aspects of the job, Dawn managed the entire office behind the scenes. For years, she alone handled all administrative, accounting, payroll, and HR duties.
Fast forward thirty-five years and K&D now employs over 95 people and has tripled the number of female employees since 2018.
Historically, the green industry is a male-dominated field. According to national magazine Lawn & Landscape’s 2015 Census Report, 11% of the polled landscape operators were women, while its 2020 Census statistics came in lower at just 7%.
K&D however, fosters a progressive culture where any employee, regardless of gender, ethnicity, or age, can advance their career. Every employee must align both personally and professionally with K&D’s core values, leaving zero tolerance for discrimination or harassment of any kind.
Of the dozen women who currently contribute to K&D’s success, three of them have risen notably, and each of their paths to achievement is unique.
Hired as a receptionist, Jessica Wendt joined the K&D team in April of 2014. Over the last seven years, her hard work and dedication propelled her through multiple positions within the company. From receptionist to then a billing specialist, she soon moved up even further to office manager, heading up all administration, billing, and payroll responsibilities. Today Jessica dons the Director of Administration title, where she oversees HR, finance and all administrative team members. But she hasn’t stopped there. As of January 1, she also holds part ownership within the company and now sits on the board of directors.
Wendt explained that her climb to the top of a mostly male business has been a positive experience, “We have a very respectful team who encourages and supports one other. We see each other as teammates and a family, which makes the environment a pleasant one.” She did mention that:
As women we have to work harder to prove ourselves in this industry… we can get our hands dirty too!
— Jessica Wendt, Director of Administration and part Owner of K&D Landscaping, Inc.
Though Wendt didn’t initially set out to build her career in landscaping, she has grown to appreciate the trade. “I love the variety. Landscaping involves so many aspects, from mowing lawns to irrigation to patios and pergolas. A beautifully installed yard brings such a feeling of peace and joy. It’s an extension of our home to the outdoors.”
She is grateful for her journey at K&D, “I feel honored to be in a leadership role mentoring the other members of my team so they too can grow with the company. K&D has made it possible for me to build a career here and I want to make sure anyone else who wants that opportunity can have it too, regardless of their gender.”
After deciding that a teaching career just wasn’t the right fit, Jamie Strange accepted an Administrative Assistant job at K&D in October 2018. Her hope was to join a company that offered channels to work her way up, and K&D did just that. Three months in, she added marketing duties to her plate and shortly after that began assisting the account managers of the Maintenance division. This expansion provided her with more understanding and exposure into the landscaping world and within a year’s time, Strange was promoted to a Maintenance Account Manager.
K&D has supported Strange’s road to professional success every step of the way, from arranging Microsoft Excel courses to more advanced development like account management training with The Harvest Group, (a consulting firm that specializes in landscaping businesses). When she completes her management coaching, she will then take a horticulture course, as well as irrigation training.
With my recent promotion, I have been given the upmost support from the entire team. The guidance and trust they put in me to learn and grow in the landscaping industry is amazing. I’ve gained a lot of confidence stepping into a role that is mainly male dominant and K&D is huge part of getting me there!
— Jamie Strange, Maintenance Account Manager at K&D Landscaping, Inc.
Strange added why she enjoys working for an organization like this one: “There is no such thing as a “dead-end” with K&D, it’s a company where you can grow and build your career. Not only do they invest in their employees, but they are also dedicated to giving back. Our Community Beautification projects are so impactful and it’s incredibly rewarding to see the smile we help create by transforming an outdoor area for those in need.”
Amy Andre, presently the Commercial Department Leader at K&D, began at the company as a Project Engineer. Andre had previously worked in the green industry and brought with her experience in tree care, project coordination, and account management.
Hired in 2018, Andre proved her strong “hunger” (one of their six core values) and worked diligently to learn the ins and outs of the Commercial department. After quickly mastering the role, she was promoted to Department Leader in 2020. Andre attributed K&D’s training systems, standard operating procedures, and seasoned coaching from owner Kendel White and CEO Justin White to help her get to where she is now.
Knowing I’m a woman in a male-dominated industry just fuels me to be that much more successful. It’s important to be the difference out there and break old stereotypes about women in leadership positions. I strive to be a woman of my word and back up the things I say with results. That is the best way to earn respect in my opinion, regardless of who you are or what your gender is.
— Amy Andre, Commercial Department Leader at K&D Landscaping, Inc.
The company’s expanding vision is just one of the reasons Andre stays excited about working for K&D, “I love that we have a young and determined leadership team shaking things up and making big moves for the future. There are so many exciting things to look forward to with this company!”
Of the hundreds of job applications K&D receives each year, approximately one fourth are submitted by women, but they’re hopeful for that number to increase. The company collaborates with several local colleges to encourage more men and women into the landscaping workforce. K&D assists Cabrillo College and Monterey Peninsula College with course curriculums in accordance with current state regulations, hosts irrigation training and fire-safe landscaping classes, and provides general support to the horticulture department. The goal is to help educate and advertise to students that landscaping can be a lucrative and rewarding career for both genders.
During a guest appearance for a business horticulture class at Monterey Peninsula College, Justin White presented the many different avenues that a landscaping business can offer. Besides manual labor, a company of K&D’s size can provide jobs within administration, finance, human resources, account management, nursery maintenance, project management, estimating, and department management. And currently, at K&D, there are females in each of these positions.
From Dawn White’s courage as a co-founder to the women now pioneering roles within its expanding walls, K&D Landscaping continues to lead by example for gender equality. This paves the path not only for future female landscapers, but for all women wanting to break through gender barriers in any career.