Walk a Mile in (Her) Shoes

Welcome news! It’s a great time to be in agriculture, especially a women in agriculture, according to some sources, anyway.


Today more women are farming that ever before. USDA ag statistics reports that woman owned and operated farms in the U.S. has more than doubled since 1982 to nearly 1 million. According to an article published by agcareers.com in the May 2016 issue of  Agri Marketing, “we’ve seen tremendous growth in women’s interest in agriculture, women pursuing careers in the industry, and enrollment in agricultural collegiate programs.” Even as we continue to see consolidation, careers in both traditional areas such as sales and innovative fields like technology are still growing in agribusiness. It seems there is some confidence in the marketplace about professional agricultural jobs. In fact, agcareers.com also reported that in the Gender Roles & Equality survey they conducted in 2015 that 88 percent of women respondents ‘felt optimistic about their possibility to advance in the ag industry’; correspondingly, the results indicated that only about 56 percent said they were optimistic ‘outside the ag industry’. 


One word from the findings of this report struck me, however: confidence.


Confidence, or a lack of, is still a factor for many career women, regardless of industry.  I recently authored a report called the Role of Confidence for Women in Communications . I discovered that despite mentoring programs, company-sponsored training, and boundless leadership academies, executive women still feel misunderstood even if they like their chosen industry and believe there is opportunity for expansion. Agriculture is still a bit this way, too. We have our benefits: gals typically don’t wait in line for restrooms at field days, and we often have a healthy selection of guys to date when we’re younger. Fortunately, even the options for company shirts are starting to become more stylish! Besides, for many of us, being is agriculture is just part of who we are.  Yet, sometimes a gal just needs to chat it up with a girlfriend. We can take much from the camaraderie of people whose situations, concerns, laughs, and daily lives are similar to our own. That’s where I believe peer groups have a tremendous value in agriculture. I encourage you to look at a peer-to-peer network that is formal-such as Farm Journal’s peer networking groups (full disclosure, I facilitate a couple of these groups, so I am biased about their value!) including the ag women’s online peer group or Top Producer Executive Network (TPEN). You should also consider gathering informally on social media or in person as regularly as you can with friends and you own targeted network of peers and mentors.


The building of confidence is a factor that I’ve seen win business, advance careers, and improve professional relationships over and over. I’m not talking about being over-confident, arrogant, or boastful, either. Rather, as a professional that has the self-assuredness to know when a deal is mutually beneficial and ethical - and when its not- is a critical factor to career growth and personal contentment. While training is important and necessary, sometimes just knowing you’re not alone out there boosts confidence in a way nothing else can. 


Yep, sometimes you just gotta walk a mile (or an acre) in her shoes to understand. 


I welcome your contact: 

Sarah Beth Aubrey, owner, A.C.T. Aubrey Coaching & Training


Posted on June 30, 2016 .