Where is the sisterhood in ag business?

“There is sisterhooda special place in hell for women who don’t help other women,” noted former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright during a keynote speech at a luncheon celebrating the WNBA’s All Decade Team in 2006.

I think of this quote often when I talk to women in rural businesses, particularly in agriculture. Is there a lack of sisterhood among female entrepreneurs that we need to address?

Sure, every woman I know says she supports women in agriculture. But what does that really mean? Do you consider women farmers as potential renters for your farmland? Are you buying local produce from the woman-owned vegetable stand at the farmer’s market? Are you actively engaging women farmers as speakers in your local women’s groups and fundraising organizations? Do you see women as leaders in rural America, or as supporters?

These are tough questions for me to ask and address. I have always considered myself a fierce supporter of other women in business, but sometimes my actions don’t support my words.

When discussing women’s underrepresentation in ag business, there’s often a cited explanation that there aren’t enough women who want to be in the executive suite. But several studies show this is not the case. Research from Washington University in St. Louis finds that women often do not support qualified female candidates as potential high-prestige work group peers because of a concept called “competitive threat” – meaning a fear that a highly qualified female candidate might be more qualified than you are. Really? Are we all still playing on the junior high social field? Needless to say, we all need to increase the recognition of our sisters in agriculture.

PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi has been quoted as saying, “The glass ceiling will go away when women help other women break through that ceiling.”

I think the same goes for the “grass” ceiling. Do your part to help other women in ag business by supporting them, cheering them on and being a sister to every female farmer and women entrepreneur.

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