Women make up nearly half of the worldwide workforce, but the percentage of female employees in the global grain, flour and feed industries is far less than that. Exactly how much less is unknown since there doesn’t appear to be any hard data on the subject, but anyone who has attended a conference or trade show can attest to how male-dominated these industries are.
Thankfully, a sincere and concerted effort is underway to bring more women into the agribusiness workforce, which, if successful, will immeasurably strengthen these industries and their individual companies.
Never has the push for gender parity in the agribusiness arena enjoyed so much momentum. There is the fast-growing Women in Agribusiness organization that was launched in the United States and is expanding into Europe. Its goal is to promote women in the agriculture/agribusiness sectors. Industry associations such as the International Association of Operative Millers, the National Grain and Feed Association and the Grain Elevator and Processing Society are pushing hard to increase their female membership as well as actively promoting their respective industries to prospective female employees. The American Feed Industry Association recently hired Constance Cullman as its new president and CEO, and, also in 2019, Emily Likens was named president and CEO of Augusta, Michigan, US-based Knappen Milling, succeeding her father.
Agribusiness giants such as Archer Daniels Midland Co. (ADM), which was led by a female CEO, Patricia Woertz, from 2006-14, and Cargill, have developed programs designed to increase the number of women in their companies, especially upper management positions. Through a partnership with Paradigm for Parity, a coalition comprised of business leaders who are committed to a norm in corporate leadership in which women and men have equal power, status, and opportunity, ADM and Cargill announced their commitment to achieve “gender parity” by 2030. This endeavor includes significantly increasing the number of women in senior operating roles, with the near-term goal of at least 30% representation in all leadership groups.
What’s most refreshing about this gender-parity effort is that the motive doesn’t appear to be driven by a superficial desire to “fill a quota” or make a politically-correct statement. Instead, the companies and associations participating in this movement see real value in having strong female representation.
Numerous studies show that companies with a diverse workforce are more creative, productive and profitable than those whose staffs are dominated by one race and/or gender. Men and women have different viewpoints, opinions and insights, making for better problem solving, according to a recent Gallup study, “The Business Benefits of Gender Diversity.”
Despite this progress, there’s still plenty of room for improvement. A recent Alltech survey found that 68% of women in agribusiness felt unequal pay was a problem, and an alarming 48% said they have witnessed or experienced sexist comments or behavior in their place of work.
As the father of two daughters now entering the workforce, I would find it appalling if they were not hired, passed over for a promotion or received less pay than male colleagues simply because of their gender. All employees, regardless of gender, race and, for that matter, religious and political views, should be judged solely on their job performance.
Truly embracing the concept of a diverse workforce is vital to the success the agribusiness sector moving forward.