Women in ag related positions much lower than expected

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The initial phase of results from the first-of-its-kind, comprehensive study of women in agribusiness, entitled "The Changing Demographics and Experience of Women in Agribusiness," have just been released by global food and agribusiness consultancy HighQuest Partners.

The first phase of the three-part study surveyed 81 companies from throughout the agri-food value chain to provide a baseline of data representing a snapshot of women in the agribusiness and food sectors. The remaining two phases, where participants representing 142 companies were interviewed, examine the attitudes and experiences of women in agribusiness, as well as the existing programs for recruitment, retention and advancement of women in order to provide recommendations for planning gender-inclusion programs.  

"Initial findings show that while top level data presents a fair state of gender equality with 44% of the agribusiness labor force being women, more detailed data indicates that women face challenges in advancing their careers in agribusiness and that these challenges are more prominent in larger companies," said study author Sarah Day Levesque.

Day Levesque shared stats from the study, most notably that almost half (47%) of ag degree graduates are women, yet women in commercially-focused roles in agribusiness, such as procurement, production and risk management, are underrepresented, accounting for 30% or less of these functional areas. Conversely, women are overrepresented in positions such as marketing, administration and human resources, with up to 82% being women. At the executive level, including CEO positions, women hold 21% of the positions in small companies but only 6% in large companies.

"Certainly this reflects the general trend in other business sectors where the higher up the corporate ladder one goes, the fewer women hold positions," said Day Levesque.  "However, several of the agribusiness companies surveyed expressed how difficult it is to attact and find the talent required for ag positions, let alone find women to fill these roles, pointing to a broader issue: that there is a lack of available, talented women for trained roles in agribusiness."

Other findings in the first phase of the study include:

  • A higher percentage of women advance to senior positions in small companies.

  • Just less than 20% of agribusinesses have programs to recruit women.

  • The most common recruitment strategy concentrates on universities with ag or food related programs.

A complete synopsis of the study results will be presented at next month's Women in Agribusiness Summit (www.womeninag.com) at the Hyatt Regency in Minneapolis, Minn., October 22-24.  Detailed findings and recommendations from all phases of the survey are available for purchase, either online at http://goo.gl/byC79 or at the summit. 

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