The Future is Now for Women in Agriculture

Six reasons why agriculture & agribusiness are gaining more women CEOs

ACT Like A Pro Issue 128

There are almost a million women working as the lead operator on farms according to the USDA, and increasingly we are seeing women take the helm at the C-Suite level (CEO, CFO, COO, etc.) across ag and agribusiness. Let’s take a few minutes to look at the reasons I think this trend will only grow.

1. Women now are earn more ag degrees than men
Between 2011 and 2018, women consistently earned more bachelor and master degrees in agriculture and natural science than men year after year – in 2018, 53% of graduates with Bachelor degrees in agriculture sciences were awarded to women!

It’s true for the larger areas of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) degrees as well. A Wall Street Journal analysis states, “Women as a share of STEM degree recipients at the bachelor’s level and above increased at nine of the 10 largest such programs between 2012 and 2016. Six now award at least one-third of those degrees to women.”

2. Women value the quality of life living rurally offers
One way I see women value working on the farm or in a rural ag business is convenience. Ag may allow close access to family such as parents and grandparents that are on the farm, and fosters closer relationships with those family and friends because of that proximity.

As women, we spend a lot of time seeking a balance between professional and family life, and it’s really difficult to do when you’re away from home most of the day. Cutting out a long commute is another work-life balance that on-the-farm and rural agribusiness positions offer.

3. Women control most consumer spending and strongly influence farm investments
In 2013, Nielsen Consumer said, the purchasing power of women in the U.S. ranges from $5 trillion to $15 trillion annually. That’s a lot of zeros that are in the hands of women, including when it comes to vehicles, home improvements, and electronics.

On the farm, it’s no different; women have a lot to say and a lot of power to buy and invest in their business.

4. Women are natural advocates and relationship builders
I’ve spent a lot of time with group facilitiation and executive board meetings. When I conduct Gallup’s CliftonStrengths, I find that women are stronger in advocacy, relationships building, and influencing than men in the same industry.

Practically, this means that it may be time to talk to your daughters about helping with landlord negotiations, working and communicating directly with consumers, and handling the public relations with neighbors or anti-agriculture activist groups.

5. Women have fewer traditional blind spots about the farm
Because ag has been a male-dominated industry for centuries, women often have new input, fresh ideas, and ways to get out of “how it’s always been done.” Hiring women and bringing young women back to your farming business may be the way to go!

And women are great at leading. The USDA 2012 census found that women principal operators (women who own the business) sold $12.9 billion in agricultural products in 2012, including $6 billion in crop sales and $6.9 billion in livestock.

6. Women offer different viewpoints and decision making
Women and men think differently, but you didn’t need me to tell you that! Differing (valid) view points can provide tremendous value to any business and truly keep businesses out of trouble.

If you ask a mother and father how they define sustainability for the farm, the father might suggest financial stability and profit margin, while the mother might say sustainability provides security and assets for the next generation. Both are essential viewpoints, yet slightly different.

Download the infographic below, and share your stories of strong women in ag using the hashtag #WomenInAgNow on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and LinkedIn. I’ll feature all stories that use #WomenInAgNow (or tag me!) in my Farm Next Facebook group through the end of June.

Send me your stories today, and let’s celebrate the women who are in ag right now.

ACT Like A Pro Out There!

Infographic with header text "The Future is Now for Women in Agriculture: Six reasons why agriculture & agribusiness are gaining more women CEOs"
Infographic with header text “The Future is Now for Women in Agriculture: Six reasons why agriculture & agribusiness are gaining more women CEOs”