It's time to have a serious talk about girl power. Don't worry, I won't be discussing abortion, birth control, gay marriage or any similar topics. This is about being a woman in a male-dominated industry: agriculture. I am not the only woman talking about this topic and I better not be the last. Every woman in agriculture should be talking about this. I read a post by Kate at Uptown Farms yesterday which led me to attempt to organize my thoughts on the topic of being a woman in agriculture. To be honest, I'm mad that I even have to address this because it's 2015 for cripes sake!
I have been involved in agriculture my entire life. As a child, I was raised to be seen and not heard, which is something I have struggled to break since entering the professional world. As I headed off to college and later, the real world, I realized that if you are seen and not heard, you are not part of the discussion and you are often not seen as valuable. This is especially true for women. Ladies, how many times have you had a great idea you were afraid to share because it might be deemed "stupid" only to hear another colleague suggest the same thing and have it be met with adoring cheers and applause? There goes another missed opportunity. Or, how many times have you been snarked on by other women in your office/class/community because you are successful, outgoing, doing a "man's" job, a stay-at-home mom or any other ridiculous reason for resentment and animosity? While one of the aforementioned actions can be blamed on ourselves (Speak up! Lean in!), the other is what I am ticked off about today. Stop with the snark, ladies.
It's time to stop talking about how men hold women back in the workplace and start focusing on how women tear each other down. This conversation stems from a thread I was reading in a private Facebook group where a farmer's wife/farmer/farm wife was upset and had taken to her peers to vent. She was frustrated because a young female seed representative with a "bouncy ponytail" rode in the combine with the farmer husband for 45 minutes or so talking about seed, yields, harvest etc. This woman was upset that the seed rep didn't check with her before having a meeting with her husband and generally, the passenger seat of the combine is reserved for the wife.
Had I not known better, I would have thought I was living in the 50s due to the blatant criticism thrown on the seed rep who was just doing her job. Would this wife be criticizing a male seed rep for getting in the combine for a few trips around the field? No. Not at all. Would the wife be frustrated that a male seed rep hadn't first checked with her before meeting her husband. Absolutely not. One person even commented that she hadn't had a date night with her husband in forever yet a female seed rep gets 45 minutes with the farmer. Did I miss something? Did the seed rep break your date session? Were you riding in the combine and your husband kicked you out in favor of the seed rep? No. That is not the case. What happened is a pure and simple case of jealousy that turned into a stream of scornful statements towards a woman doing her job in a man's industry. I certainly hope the ponytail bedecked seed rep isn't a member of that group on Facebook so that she can't see all the nasty things women were saying about her. I was absolutely sickened by some of the comments.
Would those women want that harsh criticism thrown on their daughters, nieces, sisters, mothers or granddaughters for doing her job? Doubtful. Social media makes it easy to sit behind a screen, from the safety of our home and criticize the crap out of each other and say things we wouldn't say to anyone's face. Well, come to my house and I'll tell you the same things I'm writing:
Grow the hell up, folks.
Women in agriculture have a right to be involved in conversations that affect our ranches, farms and livelihood. It's been a decades-long struggle for women to climb out of the kitchen and into the workplace, to get those top leadership spots and to become seen as industry leaders, while also juggling family roles and responsibilities. We had to earn our power and fight for equality with men in feed companies, trade organizations, the sale barn, the pasture - I mean, we weren't even allowed to be members of FFA until 1969. How many ag leaders were overlooked in that 41 year span because they were women?! Are we really going to turn on each other while doing the jobs and filling the roles we have fought so hard to earn?
I am a woman in the male-dominated beef industry. I wear boots and a blazer when I speak at conventions and to groups, I have one-on-one meetings with men all the time and I can carry on a conversation about corn harvest, fat cattle prices and policy regulations affecting the beef business. Then I turn right around and am the traditional wife that cooks, cleans and plays an equal role on our own ranch. It is possible to do both and be respected by women and men for the variety of roles that we play. My husband doesn't question the business trips I take, and I don't question his. Because we trust each other. Plain and simple. My recommendation to the original jealous farmer's wife would be to talk to your husband, not the internet. My recommendation to the seed rep is to keep rocking that ponytail, get in the combine and earn that promotion.
It stops now. Stop putting down other women because of your own insecurities. If you're feeling jealous, insecure, uncomfortable etc. ask for help. Talk to a friend. Talk to your partner. Don't blame your feelings on another woman. You don't know what path she walked to get to where she is and you don't know her story. Like my friend Janice says, be a builder and not a destroyer.
An interesting thing about women: we have the ability to say some really empowering things but also say some very hurtful things. Both the kindest and nastiest things that have ever been said to me came from a woman. Have I criticized women? Yes. I recognize and own this. Clearly I am criticizing several right now in this post for their antiquated viewpoints and sexist comments. However, I can work at being better every day. I can choose to continue complimenting, encouraging, inspiring and invigorating my fellow women in ag. I can choose to engage in positive conversations rather than tear each other down. I can CHOOSE to be a better person. So can you.
Be better, ladies.
Until next time,
~ Buzzard ~
This post has featured a multitude of strong women who I am proud to have as friends and family!
Labels: agriculture, career, cattle, empowered women, goals, women in ag