The ever-changing role of women in agriculture

The ever-changing role of women in agriculture

Advancing Women in Agriculture conferences are planned for March 6 and 7 in Calgary, and October 30 and 31 in Niagara Falls. Some previous conference speakers were asked to respond to this question:

How is the role of women in agriculture changing, and what are the best ways to capture the opportunities?

 

Chantelle Donahue

Vice-President, Corporate Affairs, Cargill Canada

Agriculture, period, is changing! However, there's also a strong recognition that the presence of women is increasing. We're starting to see greater presence of women in senior leadership roles, serving on boards, and I guess you could say we have started to change what the "old boys' club" looks like.

I want to be very specific. Throughout my career, although I felt I was working in a male-dominated industry, I never let that be an obstacle. Rather, I always tried to view it as an opportunity – recognizing it was so important to prove myself on merit a nd ability.

Personally, as a mother, wife and employee, I believe it's absolutely imperative you choose the right partnerships. Without the right partnerships and alignment on expectations, I believe it is impossible to manage it all. Even at the best of times, the choices are difficult.

Don't lose sight of the importance of good friends, mentors, leadership development, collaboration and authenticity. Finally, be passionate about what you're doing and own your choices.

 

Trish Jordan

Director, Public and Industry Affairs, Corporate Engagement, Monsanto Canada

Today, women dominate as graduates from agriculture faculties and agri-related fields of study. This creates a more diverse talent pool for employers to choose from. In addition, most employers today are committed to creating inclusive and diverse workplaces. How can women capture the many opportunities that agriculture offers?

  • Focus on your current role and relentlessly deliver on the projects in front of you.
  • Never doubt you can take on a “stretch role” to learn and grow.
  • Don't be embarrassed if you don't know everything. If you want to learn, you have to be willing to show vulnerability and ask questions.
  • Speak up when you have a perspective or experience to share.
  • Exude confidence even when you don't have it.
  • Walk into a room as if you own it.
  • Seek out mentors.

Women face additional pressures at home. Get extra help for the second shift (wife, mother, grocery shopper, supper cooker, chief homework helper, lunch packer and bedtime reader, not to mention house cleaner and laundry guru).

 

Sophie Perreault

Executive Vice-President and Chief Operating Officer, Farm Credit Canada

Today's agriculture industry is changing incredibly quickly, and new opportunities are coming up every day. Whether it's in production, marketing, trade, education or finance, we need enthusiastic, talented people who can help our industry meet its full potential. And considering women have always been vital contributors to family farms, it's not surprising that we're also taking leadership roles in all these areas.

I think it's the best of both worlds. Women bring a deep passion to their roles – and a fresh perspective on how to move our industry forward.

This is an amazing time for Canadian agriculture. The role our industry plays in feeding a growing global middle class cannot be overstated. Collectively and individually, we need to put our best foot forward.

 

Tonya Haverkamp

Egg Farmer, Listowel, Ont.

I wouldn't say the role of women in agriculture has changed over the years. I'd say that we are taking on more of a leadership role – from being the farmer's wife who took care of the animals on a daily basis to managing the farm full time.

I attended the Advancing Women in Agriculture conference in Toronto, where there were more than 430 women in attendance who were involved in the ag industry: from farmers, bankers, crop and equipment specialists and cash croppers to CEOs, and everything in between!

With agriculture accounting for 6.7 per cent of Canada's GDP in 2013 and one in eight jobs being in agriculture, there are so many ways for women to capture the opportunities in our industry. Some just might have to step out of their comfort zones and put themselves out there!

Farming is such a rewarding career. I look after a laying hen and pullet farm, and it's the greatest feeling knowing the eggs my hens produce every day are enjoyed by people all over Canada.

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