Agriculture continues to make strides as an equal opportunity employer, according to one human resources expert.
“We want to make sure people are aware that there are vast opportunities in agriculture and that they’re a fit for anyone that wants to put in the time and effort to be a successful candidate,” said Erika Osmundson at AgCareers.com.
For more than 20 years, AgCareers.com has matched job seekers and employers in the agriculture industry.
Osmundson said conventional images about gender-based career roles are becoming a thing of the past.
“We’re seeing more and more women take leadership roles within the agriculture space, which is really positive for advancing this movement of getting more women into the industry. We’re seeing more women in production, which has stereotypically been a male-dominated field. I don’t think there’s necessarily a specific area that makes more sense for women versus men,” she said.
However, a recent survey about the current state of gender roles and equality in agribusiness in Canada and the United States identified barriers to equality and advancement within the industry.
For the survey, AgCareers.com partnered with Women in Agribusiness, an international community of professional women who share industry knowledge.
The online poll collected responses from 624 people who participated, 77 percent being women. Survey questions examined topics such as compensation, benefits, work/life balance, equality and advocacy.
Analysis identified similarities and discrepancies between genders.
About 75 percent of women thought there was gender inequality in agriculture, while half of men thought so.
However, compared to the overall business world, men and women thought there was more gender equality in agribusiness.
“The agriculture industry does have more of that family welcoming feel. I don’t think we’re seen as quite cutthroat as maybe some of the other business sectors out there are. Not to say that we don’t have that because I think we do, especially when you start looking at some of the stats about people feeling like there is inequality.
Women on farming production operations has been a thing since the beginning of time really. The woman was always available to help so we’ve just seen that expand over the years,” she said.
More than half of women said they had experienced blunt sexism or discrimination based on their gender. And more than a third said they had experienced sexual harassment or unwanted sexual advances while at work.
“I don’t think this is an agriculture agribusiness specific challenge. I don’t think that there’s more malintent from the agriculture space and it’s probably less to be quite honest than maybe what you’d find in overall business.
“I do think this is the place that we need to continue to train and educate employers, as well as staff and then to work with the women audience on the receiving side to be able to respond and react in a productive and constructive manner,” Osmundson said.
The survey indicated men generally earn slightly more money than women, however a shift is occurring where more women are figuring out ways to get to a higher level of pay within the next few years.
“The family values pieces (have) changed just slightly. More women find themselves desiring that business mindset. Some might be single parents that need that to move forward. So I just think there’s that aspiration there to advance maybe more so than in previous years,” she said.
Both genders listed health insurance, retirement savings plans and flexible work hours as their top three choices for the benefits they valued most.
Most women felt optimistic about their opportunity for advancement in agriculture, while only half were optimistic about their opportunities for advancement outside of agriculture.
However, 70 percent of women of colour were more confident about advancing their careers outside of the agricultural industry.
“As a whole, the agriculture industry is working towards being more representative and having more diversity of thought,” Osmundson said.
“There are some negative stereotypes based on history in terms of diversity, particularly of blacks working in fields and things. So part of the opportunity there is to make sure that our diverse talent pipeline understands the breadth and opportunity of agriculture and that if they aren’t interested in kind of the traditional production side of things, we still have a need for their diverse backgrounds in our businesses.”
The new survey also found that 30 percent of women producers were the sole owners or primary stakeholders of the production operation for which they worked. For those who were not (44 percent), they most commonly worked for a non-relative.
About 42 percent of female producers are landowners and almost three-quarters own less than 250 acres. More than half had a stake or partial ownership in the operations where they work.
Most women who did not own land hoped to one day own or share in a production operation.
The vast majority of male and female respondents said they frequently advocate for the agriculture industry.
“That is very specific to – do they encourage their peers to want to come to the agriculture industry and potentially work in industry, which leads me to believe that this whole perception of women in agriculture, they must not feel too terribly about how they’re represented in what types of roles and careers they’ve found within the industry if that good proportion of people are willing to encourage others to come to the industry,” Osmundson said.
And the majority of both genders felt that the attitude toward women in agriculture has changed for the better.