Put more bluntly, I worked awfully hard to not be seen as different, but the same.
Still, I also pride myself in having the ability to listen and weigh other opinions. Finding the courage to change a mindset or belief that one has held firm is much harder than having a conviction.
In modern day vernacular, I think I am finally “woke” to the fact that hoping against hope for bias blindness to happen isn’t enough. Because, if I’m honest with myself, the barriers and challenges have never gone away. I’ve just chosen to put my head down and work harder when they appeared.
Lately, children’s literature has been churning out fascinating biographies of individuals who dared to believe and persevere in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) to make differences in the world.
Reading these histories — many of them names I’ve never encountered — has opened my eyes further to the need to share these kinds of gutsy stories.
As a much younger colleague recently pointed out, it is important to recognize when people break through social ceilings, so others see it is possible. In her words: “It is difficult to ‘want’ to be or do anything when you don’t see anyone who looks like you in these roles.”
You might be surprised, as I was, that today’s international day of recognition for women has occurred for well over a century. The first official gathering was in 1911 with over a million people attending rallies to campaign for women’s rights to work, vote, be trained, to hold public office and end discrimination. For the past dozen years or so, the United Nations has been also recognizing the International Day of Rural Women in October.
That’s a lot of asking to be recognized and heard.
Yet, Corteva Agriscience released a 17-country study, conducted between August and September 2018, showing how women are being held back from full and successful participation in agriculture.
The study included 4,160 respondents living in both the developed and developing world on five different continents. Most of the women were engaged in crop farming, with others engaged in a variety of other farming and related agricultural pursuits. Of those polled, 21% were from the United States.
It revealed that although women are overwhelmingly proud to be in agriculture, they perceived gender discrimination as widespread, ranging from 78% in India to 52% in the U.S. Only half said they are equally successful as their male counterparts; 42% say they have the same opportunities as their male counterparts, and only 38% say they are empowered to make decisions about how income is used in farming and agriculture.
I have fought for my right to be in the field or farmyard since I could unlatch the back door of the farmhouse and make my escape. I see progress toward acceptance when I drive by the FFA farm near my home and find diversity of students working side-by-side. I know that my own career is a testimony to more openness.
But there’s still so much work to do. I have also continued to witness patriarchal mindsets that keep women from stepping in to manage farms and/or inherit land.
I still hear too many stories about difficulties dealing with marketers and salesmen. There’s nothing quite like having someone suggest that perhaps your husband should make the transaction — especially when you have done the research and are writing the check.
Almost every time I think I’ve earned the respect to be seen as an equal, a bully-like reminder sneaks in to prove stereotypical notions still exist.
As an industry, we need to do better. I’m challenging myself to do better job of calling out gender bias for what it is — because not doing so is painful, too, and telling myself it will go away simply isn’t working.
Find more about International Women’s Day at: https://www.internationalwomensday.com/…
The report from Corteva can be accessed here:
Pamela Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow her on Twitter @PamSmithDTN
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