Advancement starts with youth mentorship

The 2016 Supporting the Advancement of Women in Agriculture project addressed barriers to advancement facing women in the industry. Respondents listed the following among their priorities:

TORONTO — Iris Meck hopes to put the next generation of female leaders on the fast track.

Meck of IMCI Events in Calgary organizes the Advancing Women conference in Eastern and Western Canada each year, paying for and acquiring sponsorships for youth delegates to attend.

“I believe that’s where our future is,” she said. “Young women today need mentors and coaches and hear the success stories of women in the industry.”

She said the conference offers opportunities to network and learn skills and tools they may not be getting in school.

“They’re a great networking group to be in touch with for building your career in the future,” Meck said of the hundreds of women on farms and in agribusiness who attend.

She said youth delegates come from universities and high schools or participate with their mother or grandmother.

She cited strong support from 4-H, which sent its youth ambassador, Elaine Jeffs, to the Toronto event this month.

The University of Guelph agricultural science student hails from a dairy and crop farm in Ontario’s Northumberland County and represents 4-H at fairs, achievement days and conferences.

Jeffs was inspired by the personal trials of an agricultural lending agency leader who found new approaches rather than give up.

“Don’t be afraid to take a different approach,” she said.

“A lot of people get in a rut. Just because they’ve been doing it for so long doesn’t mean it’s the right way.”

Presentations that focused on prioritizing and avoiding procrastination resonated with her time management challenges as a student.

Jeffs said assembling like-minded women in one room who support one another allowed for open discussions and opportunities to share ideas.

“You definitely know that women’s role in agriculture is not going away,” she said.

“Anything a man can do, we can do just as well, so it’s empowering.”

  • coaching, mentorship and networking opportunities
  • celebrate female role models by sharing profiles
  • encourage an inclusive environment to retain women
  • supportive maternity leave, travel expectations
  • communication in ways that both women and men understand
  • create a safe, enabling environment for learning in leadership
  • build career awareness amongst women, including awareness of career path opportunities

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