Women Are a Driving Force in Today’s Agriculture Industry
on 11-16-201612:30 PM - last edited on 11-28-201603:44 PM by idigcat
I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Doris Mold, president of American Agri-Women, the nation’s largest coalition of farm, ranch and agribusiness women. We discussed the growth of women in the agriculture industry and the driving factors behind this trend.
Q: Tell me a little bit about American Agri-Women and it’s mission.
A: American Agri-Women began 41 years ago as a organization dedicated to supporting women in the production agriculture industry. The organization has now grown to be the largest non-partisan coalition of women in all segments of the industry—from production to academia to lending to government. We have more than 50 state and commodity affiliates and organizations, focusing on everything from community outreach, government advocacy, consumer education, skill building, leadership development and networking. Our priority is helping to ensure a safe, reliable food, fiber and fuel supply for the U.S.
Q: How has the involvement of women in the agriculture industry changed since American Agri-Women was first established?
A: Women have always served active and important roles on the farm or ranch. However, the work they did often went unrecognized, as men were traditionally thought of as the principal owners and operators. Over the past few decades the amount of women who are receiving undergraduate and advanced degrees has increased drastically—across the board. Women have become a significant part of the nation’s work force, and this translates to the agriculture industry. In the past, women weren’t encouraged to enter this field, but now there are many programs and resources in place to support female growth and participation in agriculture.
Q: Is there a rise in the amount of women who are enrolling in Ag-related collegiate programs? How about Ag-focused programs and organizations?
A: Absolutely. Let’s start with FFA. Women weren’t even allowed to become FFA members until 1969. Now, women account for 50 percent of the organization’s membership, holding 70 percent of the leadership roles. College enrollment to agriculture degrees has also skyrocketed as a whole, with a large portion of that increase being female students. Women make up 57 percent of Texas A&M’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences student population. They also accounted for the majority of Purdue University College of Agriculture’s 2014 and 2015 enrollment. Additionally, females outnumbered male students in the 2015 enrollment at Auburn University’s College of Agriculture.
Q: Are the careers and roles women hold within the industry changing as well?
A: Yes, as more women enroll in and complete collegiate Ag-focused programs, many enter into what is known as STEM careers—science, technology, engineering and/or math-related positions. Many women are also getting involved on the governmental, lending and business sides of the industry. With so many new educational and support programs in place for women, they are now being exposed to the vast array of opportunities. This is not to downplay the importance of more traditional farming and ranching roles. Many women still enter the production side of the agriculture, which is extremely critical in ensuring the nation’s food and resource supply. In addition, women are very much involved in operating machinery and equipment in the field, as well as making equipment purchase, lease and rental decisions for the business.
Q: Are there any initiatives in place to continue to encourage and measure the growth of women in the industry and/or the industry as a whole?
A: A primary focus of American Agri-Women is non-partisan policy work to help support ongoing growth and success of the agriculture industry. One initiative, in particular, that will aid in our advocacy efforts is changes to the 2017 USDA Census of Agriculture. The new census has incorporated a sequence of questions that aims to get a more accurate reporting on who and how individuals are involved in the industry. It is important to account for all people involved in agriculture in order to make a larger impact on policy makers and how we are able to do business in the future.
To get more industry-related news and updates, as well as detailed equipment information to help you make important decisions for your operation, visit the Cat Resource Center or contact your local Cat® dealer.
We’d like to hear your thoughts on how the agriculture industry is evolving and trends you are beginning to notice.
Are you a female currently working in the industry? If so, what is your role or career?
Are you a female currently enrolled in an Ag-related organization? If so which one?
Are you currently a student enrolled in an Ag-related educational program? If so, what are you studying?
If you are involved in the agriculture, how have you seen the industry change over the time you have been active in it?
In your opinion, what are the most positive changes you are seeing with regard to opportunities for women in agriculture?
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