In response to Mr. Hursh,
In 2012, we created an organization called Women in Ag. Our mission then, as it stands today, is to empower, support, and connect women in the agriculture industry. We fulfill this mission by hosting events where attendees can learn technical and professional skills, network with individuals from different backgrounds, and develop the support required to seek leadership opportunities within the industry.
Amongst principles of integrity, humility, honouring the industry, and welcoming all women (and men) in agriculture, one of our core values is to respect the women who have paved the way and led us to where we are today. We are encouraged by those who have stepped into these leadership positions, assumedly some of the very same individuals you mentioned in your article, and agree that many are capable of just stepping up, and that “others can too.” This said, there are instances where an individual desires additional skill development and/or a support system to seek guidance. A support system that is often derived from individuals who share the same experiences. These instances can range from but are not limited to: identifying what leadership roles currently exist, how to pursue that seat at the table, and how to properly align oneself with an opportunity they wish to fulfill. From our point of view, providing such a service should not be viewed as anything but positive. If we play a part in encouraging even one individual to stand up and fulfill a leadership position, we consider the mandate of our group to be a success.
We don’t argue the fact that there are men within our industry likely seeking similar support when it comes to furthering themselves either personally or professionally. We are often asked “why is there not a men in ag organization?”. We don’t feel this is our question to answer, but it is evident that there is a gender imbalance in leadership roles. While many critics will argue that women are well represented working in many capacities throughout the industry from agronomy to banking, data shows that women are climbing the ladder much less often than men are. There is a need for our existence, and we won't apologize for acknowledging the current issue.
Our Women in Ag social media accounts are specifically designed to share stories of encouragement, support for one another, and provide event updates that allow individuals within the industry to connect and develop new skills. We are aware of the conversational limits associated with a 280-character maximum, and therefore divert our limited, volunteer based time and energy to providing opportunities for women to “step up”.
We will continue to work to develop an industry where women are equal. While men are not required nor expected to vouch for or create any sort of special environment for women to succeed, it is in our best interest as an industry to support and seek diversity. It is evident that there is an imbalance in leadership between genders and the statements you provided explaining why are simply inaccurate. Some women may need to be encouraged to step up and where an individual finds the confidence, skill set, and network of support to do so should not be up for debate.
Mr. Hursh we kindly ask that you allow women to answer such questions as to why we haven’t taken on leadership roles and how we feel about women related events. Generalizations such as “recruitment efforts must continue, but many women don’t have the time, or that isn’t where their interests and/or priorities lie” and “many women don’t see (women related events) as useful” throw us back to a time when women faced much more tangible societal barriers more rapidly than a women-based conference.
Our long term vision is that women in ag groups no longer need to exist. This will fall into place when all women truly have the choice, the skillset, the opportunity, and the confidence to become leaders in our industry.
Chair and Cofounder Saskatchewan Women in Ag