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Women in agriculture: #ChooseToChallenge gender stereotypes

March 09, 2021

Women in agriculture: #ChooseToChallenge gender stereotypes

Synopsis
3 Minute Read

MNP celebrates women in agriculture and challenges gender stereotypes this International Women’s Day.

Bob Tosh
Bob Tosh, PAg, FEA
Family Business Advisor

While women have played a pivotal role in food harvesting activities for centuries, they’ve traditionally been denied a lot of the agricultural ownership and leadership opportunities awarded to their male counterparts. Fortunately, there are signs this is starting to change.

Over the last decade, more women have completed agricultural degrees and a growing number are turning to agriculture as a career. Still, we’re quite a ways off from being able to consider agriculture a gender-equal playing field.

This International Women’s Day, the theme is #ChooseToChallenge — meaning, we must choose to call out gender stereotypes across all areas of life and business if we hope to eradicate gender inequality. This can be easier said than done as, in most cases, these longstanding biases are so familiar they’re often difficult to detect.

To help the farming industry #ChoosetoChallenge, therefore, we’d like to suggest four areas to focus on throughout 2021 and beyond:

Challenge the belief that only men can be principal producers

Despite the progress women are making in the field, agriculture continues to be a male-dominated industry, most notably in principal producer roles. This lack of authority prevents women from having the voice they need to positively shape the industry.

Challenge the idea that a gender wage disparity is normal

Because a higher number of men are principal producers—and more men own commercial farms than women—there is a huge wage disparity in the industry. For example, in the United States, only 15% of female farmers earned over $50,000 in 2017, compared to 27% of men.

Challenge the notion that women don’t belong in agriculture

Women bring a unique perspective to farming. They tend to lean toward more environmentally-conscious practices, and many are more likely to explore farm-based side businesses — like bed and breakfasts, shops or seasonal entertainment activities. Rather than being celebrated, however, this different approach to farming is often looked down upon or criticized.

Challenge the misconception that gender inequality doesn’t matter

According to a report by ISF Advisors and RAF Learning Lab, women generate only 37% of global GDP, despite representing half the world’s working-age population. One of the side effects of this gender inequality is that it limits agricultural productivity. This means household yields are 20% to 30% lower than they need to be — at a time when climate change is threatening our food security.

If the agriculture industry hopes to evolve in the 21st century, it must encourage diversity and that starts by inviting women to the table. While this may seem like a daunting endeavour, it doesn’t have to be. The first step forward can be a small one — one you can take at home, with the female members of your family.

 

Bob Tosh, PAg., FEA , is a farm and family business advisor with MNP’s Consulting group. Through his work with farm families, Bob has become a specialist in family business succession planning, helping more than 200 families transition to the next generation. Contact Bob at 306.664.8303 or [email protected]

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