International Women’s Day is a great time to reflect on the vital role women play in agriculture. Being 50% of the population, women make essential contributions to society and economies.
The U.N. Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 5) recognizes gender equality as a necessary foundation for a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world. Hence gender equality is not only a fundamental human right, but it is also essential to advancing society and the global agri-food industry.
On the larger canvas, we all need the commitment to empower women farmers and women employees with a robust support system.
I’m proud to be in the field that feeds the world. “When I began my career in agribusiness 11 years ago, confidence didn’t come naturally”. I’ve learned that an equal opportunity environment at home and work supported this realization.
Women are capable, the roles they fulfil are valuable, and must empower women in any industry, for that matter.
In a recent “Women in the Workplace” study, McKinsey found that one in four women is considering downshifting her career or leaving the workforce due to COVID-19. That’s a significant consequence of our times that needs utmost attention and elevate inclusion efforts.
In the last few decades, women have carved an important place in the agribusiness leadership domain. While this last year has proven to be very challenging, it has also been a testament to the power of resilience. It has made organizations and people around more mindful and empathetic.
Over the years I have found that women in our industry have proven to be highly successful, despite the industry dominated by men. In the marketing, sustainability, customer service and research spaces, some of the largest portfolios are headed by women. Our eye for detail, bringing empathy, resilience to the workspace, and managing relationships set us apart from our male counterparts.
Inclusion at the workplace cultivates creativity and drives innovation. Moving forward, we need more qualified women in leadership positions, so younger female colleagues have more role models to inspire them.
Women are often confronted with unconscious biases and prejudices but she has to find her own purpose and work towards it. Below are the some of the points that helped me
- Having a self-compassionate mindset, don’t let perceived judgments from others hold you back
- Be aware of micro aggressions and know how to react proactive or assertive way
- Stereotyping is natural but pay attention when you attach judgment to it, adopt a curiosity mindset instead
- Having a ‘YES I CAN’ attitude and recognizing that where you are today is not by chance
Build your support structures and network
- Let go of perfection, embrace imperfections, and learn from them
- Embrace your authentic self – learn to be proud of your strengths and use them to move forward
Work-life balance – unattainable myth
All working women recognize that the perfect balance between work and home life is an unattainable myth. Instead, I believe we play multiple life roles that require more effort/time than others. One should not hesitate in seeking help from others at work and home environment to share the load. Also, I strongly believe in prioritizing the roles and decide how best to manage time across your various roles and responsibilities. It is essential to relax and take a break in the form of a hobby or holiday. I do it by writing, cooking or making sure I take enough time off to travel to new places, which is always a learning and rejuvenating experience.
Tips for women venturing into agribusiness
It is good to see more and more girls studying agriculture and veterinary sciences. For young women entering the agribusiness industry, my advice would be to invest in yourself – on communication skills, believe in yourself, and also keep learning (every day is Day1)– every industry constantly changes. It’s essential to always be on top of all the various trends. Don’t be afraid to take risks at work and ask for constructive feedback.
Also, to the women in the industry, it is our responsibility to make sure the next generation of women are educated, encouraged, and empowered to meet the challenges of meeting the world’s growing food, fuel, and fibre needs.
Organizations must align their business objectives to help develop women leaders, improve education and awareness, and increase the pipeline of female talent. Many organizations have diversity but not an inclusive workplace culture. Embracing inclusion and equity also makes good business sense. Studies have shown that gender-diverse teams have higher revenue compared with male-dominated teams.
75% of the women responding to the 2019 Women in Food and Agriculture Survey felt that a lack of mentor ship was a significant barrier to their career development. Networking is vital; curating meaningful relationships and adding value to them is crucial for career growth.
Agriculture is an industry that can thrive positively because of the community of like-minded people. Women around the world want and deserve equal opportunities for a brighter future. To achieve this, there should be women at every table where decisions are being made.
Finally, remember being able to carry many hats as daughter, sister, wife, manager, colleague, a mother is a strength!
This International Women’s Day, I encourage each one of you to #ChooseToChallenge – to commit to learning more about the role of women in the ag industry, to remove barriers, and to enable equitable workplaces, both on and off the farm, offices, production facilities for years to come.
About the author
Ms. Vinny Madhuri, currently working as Grower Digital Connect Manager – India, Bangladesh & Sri Lanka at Bayer Crop Science
Vinny has completed MBA in Agri Business Management and has over 11 years of experiecne with organisations such as Axis Bank and Alltech. In her last assignment she worked as Marketing Manager, Aqua & Social Media (South Asia ) for Alltech
Her twitter handle is @VinnyGandham