I’ve been called a reluctant feminist.
What that means is that I despise gender inequality in industry, I challenge the status quo and I refuse to quiet down in the name of “being a lady.” However, I still very much embrace traditional female roles of caretaking and homemaking. I can cook and I’m proud of it – sue me.
Today is a celebration of all women – feminists or not. It’s International Women’s Day and as part of that, we women of the agriculture world are uniting to say that we are farmers, wives, food producers, mothers, ranchers, daughters and we keep the world moving. Did you know that women are the largest emerging market in the world? Did you also know that if more women were awarded with senior leadership positions that they earn (do not give people what they haven’t earned, please) productivity, profitability and GDP are all increased? The World Economic Forum estimates that at current rates gender parity will not be achieved until 2133. That’s 117 years.
Would we wait 117 years to implement other business priorities? Negatory. A report from EY titled “Gender Parity: The Time is Now” offers idea on how to accelerate this depressing 117-year projection. Such ideas include speeding up company culture by accommodating work/life integration for all, defining opportunities for advancement and building supportive environments.
The study interviewed men and women leaders in 400 companies around the world and key findings of the report include:
- Men and women alike agree that more female leadership leads to stronger companies
- 64% of high-performing companies reported that men and women have equal influence on strategy in their organizations, compared to only 43% of lower-performing companies
- 66% of companies with women on their board of directors achieve better financial performance
- 68% of companies with women on their board of directors achieve better non-financial performance (governance, corporate social responsibility, innovation and talent retention)
These findings aren’t only important in the board room, but also on the farm or ranch. Women are often times just as involved in the farm or ranch operation as their counterparts and regularly serve as bookkeeper, family caretaker, cook and health insurance provider in addition to assisting with daily operation duties such as feeding and caring for animals, helping with harvest, baling hay and running the manure spreader. Women comprised 30% of all farm operators, primary and secondary – 969,672 women – in 2012.
However, sometimes women ARE the main operator with no counterpart and hold their own. In fact, according to the 2012 U.S. Census of Agriculture, 14% of the nation’s 2.1 million farms had a female principal operator. Additionally, women principal operators sold $12.9 billion in agriculture products in 2012 and operated 62.7 million acres of farmland.
Obviously, there are women involved in agriculture outside of the U.S. as well. According to the United Nations Food and Ag Organization, on average, women comprise 43% of the agricultural labor force in developing countries and an estimated two-thirds of poor livestock keepers, approximately 400 million people, are women. Almost 70% of employed women in Southern Asia and more than 60% of employed women in sub-Saharan Africa work in agriculture. Women are the workforce of agriculture and it’s time that we forge forward and gain the parity we so rightfully deserve.
In honor of women everywhere, here and abroad, take the #pledgeforparity with me. There’s a wide variety of ways to get involved – anything from donating to a female-focused charity to sharing gender equality articles to simply sharing your support via social media. I am choosing to donate to the Girl Scouts and also share this message via social media. I hope you will join me in becoming a reluctant feminist!
Happy International Women’s Day – you can follow along with the movement on social media by looking at the hashtags #IWD2016, #Ilooklikeafarmer and #rancHER to find more women in agriculture speaking out (I posted more pictures on Instagram today as well).
Until next time,