Talent, not gender, is what matters in today’s agriculture

Whether running farms or taking a leadership role in ag businesses, 
women are breaking down the gender barrier

woman in wheat field
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Agriculture may be considered a male-dominated industry, but more women are not only recognizing the many opportunities in this sector, they are also taking on leadership roles.

Gone are the days when farming meant back-breaking physical labour. As well, the trend towards larger farm operations has meant a need for different skills and capabilities, including management, sales, and marketing skills. There are also positions in agribusiness working for grain elevators, feed manufacturers, and input suppliers, to name a few.

Women comprised 48 per cent of the employed Canadian workforce in 2011. In addition, between 1991 and 2001, the proportion of employed people aged 25 to 34 with university degrees rose from 19 per cent to 40 per cent for women compared to only 17 per cent to 27 per cent for men.

With the number of women in the workforce and the higher levels of education they’ve achieved, agricultural businesses recognize they need to be female friendly or they will miss out on top talent. As a result, more are hiring based on skills and experience, with gender playing less of a role. In some cases, women who were raised in rural areas want to move to urban centres, but many in the agricultural industry want to learn how to attract more young women, to bring the energy and ideas of their generation to this evolving industry.

One indication that agriculture is a growing field for women is the launch of the first Advancing Women Conference in 2014. In 2015, there are two conferences — one earlier this month in Calgary and a second in Toronto in October. I had the pleasure of speaking at the conference this year.

Conference organizer Iris Meck is proud to shine a spotlight on the many accomplishments of women within the agricultural industry. She wants to “pay it forward and invest in future leaders by sponsoring and funding great opportunities for women in ag.”

Women are taking on leadership roles in all areas of agriculture. Some may work on the family farm and take over the management of it when their parents retire or following the death of a spouse. Other women may take on leadership roles in large companies related to agriculture — DuPont, Dow Agro Services, and Bayer Crop Science were all participants at the conference. Still others lead agricultural startup companies.

While more women are in leadership positions at work and control their family’s wealth at home, there are differences between the genders when it comes to wealth management. For example, only 53 per cent of women have the confidence to invest money, compared to 82 per cent of men. And although women make up half of RRSP contributors, their total share of contributions is lower — 39 per cent compared to 61 per cent for men.

Here are some tips women can use today to achieve financial independence:

  • Think of long-term savings for a milestone event or retirement.
  • Participate in your employer pension plan, and contribute to your RRSP and TFSA accounts.
  • Learn by doing. When you begin investing start small, gain a comfort level with risk, and build from there.
  • You want to pay down your debts, but be sure to allocate funds for savings too.
  • Get advice. Find a financial adviser who is knowledgeable, who you connect with and who you trust. To find a financial adviser, get a recommendation from colleagues or friends.
  • Remember, no matter your age, it is never too late to start saving.

There are certainly many opportunities for women in the agriculture industry, and many success stories to celebrate. By having a sound financial plan — no matter what industry you work in — you can reap the rewards of financial independence.

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