June 03, 2014 | Agriculture’s Other Side | Melissa Erdman | Views: 1269

Breaking the Glass Ceiling

A female reader shares her experiences as a woman in agriculture.

Breaking the Glass Ceiling

Have you ever walked into a room full of people and been the only one that is “different?” — I have, and I do frequently.

Welcome to being a woman in commerical agriculture, a still male dominated field. In many of my classes at Michigan State University, they told us this, but it was hard to believe when most of my classes had a higher percentage of women than men. This disparity tells me that the agriculture world is changing — slowly but surely.

Working at an elevator is different from where most of my colleagues ended up. At the elevator where I work, there are a total of three females out of 50 employees. I am the only one who is not in administration out of those three women.

We have never had a woman stay in a position outside administration for more than six months. There are many reasons why, but in my mind it all comes down to the fact that it is a challenge. I also have had days where I want to throw in the towel, but I am determined to make a change in the ag world. My goal is to make it known who I am and what I represent. The entire world is changing, and women are taking a stand and moving up in all aspects of society. Agriculture is not any different.

I work with farmers on a daily basis, and I understand how their parents and grandparents grew up. They were told women were put on earth to take care of men and their families. Men were the breadwinners and women stayed home. I understand this mentality and try to handle each situation with someone of that generation with it mind. When I get out of my truck on a farm to visit a producer, I am being judged. I know this. I have been told multiple times “Ah, um, you’re not, uh, what I expected.” I smile kindly and ask “Well, what were you expecting — a gorilla?” I make a joke to make it less awkward. I’ll have to prove myself a million times to win over a producer’s trust. Some I honestly don’t think they mean to, but they just have a hard time taking advice or direction from, not only a woman — but a young woman. I also find this to be very true with the employees that work for me in my division.

I am in charge of one of our divisions at the elevator. I have all men working under me, and all are older than I am. It has proved to be a challenge for them to take me seriously and do as I ask. It has gotten better, but we have a long way to go.

Women also work differently than men for physical reasons. For example, one day I went out to help a co-worker soil test in a field. We had been working for hours, and I suddenly could not hold the urge to have to go to the bathroom! I said to myself, "oh boy, now what? Where can I go to the bathroom in the middle of this open field?" I knew the co-worker I was with well, so I asked him, “where am I to go to the bathroom?” He laughed and replied with, “I never thought about that for you. I just stand behind the jeep and go.” I then said “well isn’t that just great for you!” We both laughed before I took the jeep to a fence line.

And we're different in the way we think and  express emotions. It is no secret that men and women view things in differently, but neither way is necessarily wrong. We all need to remember to view everyone’s opinion, even if it isn’t the way you would do something. Though women express their emotions more easily than men, this does not make them the weaker of the sexes, it is just the way we express ourselves. Men need to remember that sometimes being blunt is not the way to get the job done. Just a word to the wise: watch your words and be aware of how you say things. Women tend to pick up on tones of voices and word-choice very easily.

Lastly, I would like to acknowledge how much harder women work to move up in not only their company, but through society. I want everyone to understand that if we get a promotion, we deserve that promotion. We got it through going above and beyond the call of duty. We put more sweat, tears and hours into it than you may realize. The next time you or someone around you judges a woman on “why” she got a promotion; just stop yourself. Women are going to continue to break the “glass ceiling.” So, to the entire world, I just want to say “accept it.” Women are here to stay, and we will continue to be a force to be reckoned with. We all want that top dog position, so let the best man or woman win.

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