When you hear about the glass ceiling many people have a tendency to think the ceiling only as it relates to the cooperate world. Not being able to get the same promotions as others. In reality, that is only a small percent of the glass ceiling and one I will hopefully never face.
There is another one that women face, a ceiling that probably only a small percentage of women will face. That one of running their own business in a man dominated field like mechanics, construction, and Agriculture.
In this sector, you don’t have to fight for a promotion. Instead, you have to fight for everything else. You might have to fight for better deals or contracts, and you have to fight the stereotype that has been built upon for generations.
Agriculture has been a male dominated the field for thousands of years. A stereotypical American farmer is a man in his 50-60s with a weather-worn face and rough hands. The United States Department of Agriculture 2012 Agriculture Census found that 86% of farms are operated by men. USDA’s 2012 Agriculture Census Data also found that the Average age of farmers is 58.8 (2012 Census Highlights). Young women in Agriculture not only have to deal with the stereotype, but the majority of the people that they deal with are also the age of their Dad. I am not sure about your family, but in mine, we don’t always agree on how to do things. Many of these arguments can come from the difference in age.
Why stereotypes in agriculture even exist, I have no idea. Women have been part of the backbone of the industry along with men for 100’s of years. You would be surprised at the knowledge of the majority of women who have things to do Agriculture. I have no doubt that my Grandma or my Mom could run every aspect of the farm if need be. Being a woman in this male-dominated field does not come without its few quirks, below are the listed that my friends and I seem to face more often than not.
Be prepared to look like an idiot when you get parts
I am no means the same caliber mechanic as my dad but I do know what the majority of parts are. After all, as soon as I got my farmers permit I started on parts runs. A couple of times he has called me and sent me to get a simple part without calling the store first. You would think when I walked in I was speaking another language. I might step up to the counter and say the same thing my Dad had asked for but 90% of the time I would get the look like wow you’re stupid; you have no idea what you are talking about. So I explain a bit more, and they go oh you mean blah blah, repeating the exact same thing that I initially said, but meanwhile since I am a woman I am the one that has no idea.
Sometimes people are too helpful
If you make a trip to the local farm store and head down the power tool aisle you can almost guarantee to get help in about 30 seconds, but they will try to explain every tool to you because you must be getting it for your husband. In reality, you only need to them to open the locked case because you knew what you were going to pick up before you ever even left your yard.
Heaven forbid you make a stop dressed up
If you got off of work or had to dress up for some fancy occasion and happen to be wearing a pencil skirt and heels, be prepared to repeat yourself at least three times. Even if you are just stopping by the elevator to pick up a check. If you can just go and put on a pair of old jeans and a ball cap, things go a lot quicker, and you get a lot fewer stares.
Be prepared to make people dumbfounded for multiple reasons
Some reason jaws tend to drop if you know about the markets. Try talking about semen selection or about how different varieties of crops are doing some time. You won’t be disappointed. I sometimes inject myself into these types of conversations just to see that look of astonishment come across a man’s.
Women will sometimes be your biggest problem
Sometimes a wife of the farmer has no part of the farming operation, and don’t understand the different aspects of it. Instead, they just see it as a way of life. Having another woman having a very compelling conversation about selecting semen, crops, or even the weather, unfortunately, can be seen as a threat. In reality, you are just having a conversation about things to do with you careers.
Sometimes as women in this field, we have to be careful. Other times just put our head down and work through it. There is always one amazing positive about being a woman in Agriculture. You are your boss. You get to be part of an amazing industry. An industry helping feed not only the United States but also parts of the world! Sometimes you may need a loud mouth and chew some butt. In the end, if you can do what you love there is nothing better!
“2012 Census Highlights.” USDA – NASS, Census of Agriculture – Publications – 2012 – Highlights. United States Department of Agriculture, n.d. Web. 01 Jan. 2017.