While scanning through the news that had come in over the weekend something jumped out at me — the growing role of women in agriculture. The two headlines that caught my eye were “Women Play Key Roles in Agriculture Jobs,” from The Herald Journal in Logan, Utah, and “AGCO Celebrates Formation of First Women in Manufacturing Chapter in Minnesota,” from the Daily Globe in Worthingon, Minn.
According to the Daily Globe article, nearly 20% of AGCO Jackson’s workforce — from the plant floor to senior management — are women. AGCO Jackson’s director of operations Eric Fisher is quoted in the article, saying “If you look at our industry — agriculture, manufacturing — it’s all about recognizing the contributions of women and the importance of having a diverse workforce and helping promote that through the entire organization … In an organization that’s in agriculture — heavy in engineering and heavy in manufacturing — that’s a high percentage. Their contributions are recognized, but out in the workplace the perceptions of how important and how impactful their roles are haven’t really caught up.”
The two stories reminded me of a visit I had made to a dealer in Wisconsin earlier this month. While the owner gave me a tour of the facility, pointing out improvements they made recently, we stopped at the service manager’s office. He made a point to mention their service manager was a woman and how well it has worked out — from working with the service techs to talking to customers on the phone. She brings a different perspective and approach to the department. And while finding a woman in the service department shouldn’t be surprising (especially to me as a woman), it did strike me as unique and made me wonder how common it is.
While it isn’t unusual to find woman in the accounting department at farm equipment dealerships, you don’t often find them in the ranks of the service department. But perhaps that’s beginning to change. I asked Mike Cattelino, the associate dean of Manufacturing and Agriculture Technologies Division at Fox Valley Technical College, if he had noticed any changes in their program. He says, anecdotally, it seems as though more women have been enrolling in their ag technology program. Ken White, dean of Utah State University’s College of Agriculture and Applied Sciences and vice president of the Agriculture Experiment Stations, told the Herald Journal the college’s enrollment is “heavily represented” by women as of fall 2014. According to USDA, women operate about 14% of U.S. farms, which is nearly triple the number in 1978. And, nearly 1 million women work on U.S. farms and ranches.
We regularly hear that finding good, qualified techs is a challenge for dealers. If what both Cattelino and White say is true beyond just their areas, the pool to draw employees from could be changing and getting bigger. What are you seeing out there? Have you noticed any changes in your customer base or job applicants?