Approximately 10 years ago, as a young, eager, intrepid reporter fresh out of school, I walked into my first agriculture meeting, looked around and realized I was the only female in the room. It was a local beef producers meeting, and all I saw were grey haired men old enough to be my dad or even grandpa. I stuck out like a sore thumb. A young woman in an old boys club, as they say in this industry.
Yes, it was intimidating and overwhelming at first, but the majority of those men eventually accepted me and my role there. But only after first proving myself – both as a farm girl and an agricultural reporter. Respect was earned by asking knowledgable questions, showing genuine interest in the issues, demonstrating passion for the industry and writing accurate, well balanced stories.
Sometimes it’s important to look back and reflect on how far you’ve come in life, and I can honestly say I’ve come a long way. And it hasn’t been easy.
It takes years to build respect in any industry and only seconds to tear it all down.
I’ve come a long way, and so has this industry, the agriculture industry. Eleven years later we’re now seeing a stronger female presence around various agricultural boardroom tables, as well as in other aspects of the industry like Ag companies, Ag media and Ag associations.
So why am I bringing this up now? I’m fortunate to be a part of several Ag women’s groups including the Ag Women’s Network (AWN) which was created by some Ag women in Ontario, Canada. Recently, the AWN initiated some great discussions on the role of women in agriculture. One question posed was: should there be a quota for women on agricultural boards?
While this would certainly help strengthen the female presence even more, my answer is no. Before some of my fellow Ag women pounce on my responce, let me explain. Whether you’re being considered for a job or on a volunteer board or whatever – it doesn’t matter – I’ve always maintained that it should be based on a person’s qualifications, experience, education and skills – not gender. Or race or nationality or anything else for that matter.
It should be about merit.
I would never want to be invited to participate on a board or anything else simply because I was a woman and they were trying to fill a quota. I want to be there because I was considered to be the best person for the role. And I know there are many qualified Ag women out there – I have the honour of knowing many of these successful women – that would fit the bill.
And perhaps we should be changing the question. To me it’s not about recruiting more women for Ag boards, committees, jobs, etc – it’s rather about recruiting more young people. Young people are the future of this industry whether they be women or men.
In my relatively short time in this industry I’ve seen much progress made. While there’s still a long road ahead, I’m confident women will continue to step up and make a difference in this industry.
I welcome your thoughts. Please share below. Thanks for reading!