Historically, a lot of women were engaged in agriculture as farmers, researchers, and family business supporters, but nevertheless, the industry stays rather conservative and "masculine." The demands of the new age, with the development of technology, are fundamentally reshaping the industry, including the role of women.
To understand what drives women to agriculture and AgTech, we talked to a few female employees of a global AgTech company, Agro.Club.
Passion for agriculture
Many respondents grew up in the countryside and have experienced farming since childhood. The knowledge they had gained at that time allowed them to work in various business units of agricultural companies. Feedback from Giovanna: "I am the granddaughter of farmers, and I’ve accompanied my family in Ag since I was a child."
And some of them, like Natalia, had no previous agricultural experience but were driven by great value and the pure potential of that area. "Every job must benefit people; otherwise, it is meaningless. Agriculture unites public benefit, the joy of creation, and high financial impact," she claims.
While Sonia was working for global Ag companies for years, Alla was a newbie just following a friend’s advice: "A friend offered me a job in Ag-business; I immersed myself in the topic, studied it in detail, and, literally, fell in love."
So the passion for agriculture is usually born in the family, although it is also common among newcomers to the industry.
Reasons to join Agro.Club
When discussing the reasons to join Agro.Club, some women seized on the opportunity to contribute to innovation and agriculture; others were attracted by the comfort of work-life balance; and for the rest, it was important to share the same corporate values.
Sharing Natalia’s opinion, "The strong drive to work in this area is due to the companies, like Agro.Club, where I’ve been working since its inception. Thanks to it, I’ve expanded my knowledge in crop production, grain trade, logistics, and digitalization!"
Corteva Agriscience survey of 2018 proved gender challenges were perceived as widespread, with significant levels everywhere (ranging from 78% in India to 52% in the United States). The survey revealed that 62% of 4,175 online respondents from 17 countries believed discrimination had been reduced over the last 10 years, but 31% said it stayed the same. They were quite optimistic about further progress, though they expected full equality to take at least a decade or more.
When asked about any gender challenges, some Agro.Club women have never experienced them at all, while some of them used to face them often in the past.
Cases like this were not exceptional. "My friend-girl was working as a sales rep for an ag machinery company. On one occasion, she had to drive around 400 miles for a sales call. After a long day of driving and meetings, she closed the deal, but the customer made sure to tell her they only signed the contract because she was a woman! They didn’t realize a woman could have what it takes to work in such a male-dominated industry," Anna says.
When speculating on the causes for the disparity between the number of men and women in the agricultural space, all the respondents refer either to hard working conditions or to habits that have been around for centuries.
Sharing Alla’s opinion, "growing crops (for example) is a complicated technological process that requires endurance, stamina, and physical strength. Not every woman would opt for it. I believe the disparity here is mainly caused by the specifics of agribusiness."
Or Sonia’s: "For centuries, women have been destined to care for their households and families.They just had no alternatives!"
These answers totally support the mentioned Corteva survey, when women’s top concerns and entry barriers were focused on family and child care, physical capacity, finance, and a fair work/life balance.
But let’s face the fact that over the last few years, agricultural space has changed immensely and the role of technology is here to stay. Modern agriculture uses sophisticated equipment such as robots, sensors, the Internet of Things, farm management systems, and so on. That allows businesses to be more profitable and efficient, which creates huge opportunities!
Eliminating the gap between access to AgTech and the training necessary to take full advantage of that technology would be the key for everyone.
All our respondents highlighted the importance of technological developments both for success in farming and for effective environmental stewardship.
According to Giovanna, "the more ways to use Tech in agriculture there will be, the more opportunities we all have." And Natalia sums it up, "It will take some time to overcome gender stereotypes in the agricultural field, but women are already actively entering IT professions and succeeding at a high rate."
While American business executive and billionaire Sheryl Sandberg predicts, "In the future, there will be no male or female leaders. There will just be leaders."
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The implementation of Tech in agriculture and the rejection of stereotypes will provide new opportunities for women to join this important industry. By now, 47% of our team members are women, and we expect this number to grow!
Technology and a fair work/life balance make agriculture accessible to everyone.
Moreover, in today's world, it's important to be agile, flexible, open-minded, and digitally savvy. These are the features that have neither age nor gender.