Finding The Ladies Room: Making My Way as a Leader in Agriculture

Sheryl Sandberg was spot-on when she wrote, “In the future, there will be no female leaders. There will just be leaders.” Ten years ago, I became accustomed to being both one of the youngest in the room and one of the only females. Fortunately, the agricultural industry’s historic support of family working together on the farm is at last catching up in the boardroom. And in the era of books like Lean In!, it is a refreshing sign.

As an ag-industry executive, I am routinely mistaken for an intern when I show up to speak as a sponsoring organization. In fact, I was once asked to return to my homeroom during a teacher’s convention! For the record, I sincerely don’t feel I was being unruly at the time.

Often, people with the least understanding of my position – working from home with small children – were other women. It was almost as if I were a threat to the fabric of their workplace. I was fortunate to follow in the footsteps of a very talented, female predecessor. I can only imagine what it was like for her to begin. Gradually, a network of us arose prior to when discussion on family life and work life came out of the proverbial closet. We weren’t “leaning in” so much as “leaning on” one another for support and encouragement.

And it wasn’t just women that made up this network. Many men felt that we could actively contribute without jeopardizing our role as parents. We did it on the farms and ranches already – with tasks ranging from running combines and trucks to making lunches and teaching kids how to safely use a tractor. I watched my parents working side-by-side, making tough business decisions as a single unit. Mom was equal. She just held the fort more often at home while Dad went to the meetings.

Nowadays, the only downside to more women in our meetings is the line to the ladies room! The support network has grown to a massive scale and I am no longer the youngest. *Sniff* And now holding down the fort at home during meeting season refers to whomever is chasing children and spraying weeds, not a specific gender.

About the Author

Anne has worked in agriculture since she was old enough to sweep the floor of the family machine shed. She writes about rural & outdoor life from Montana, where she and her husband chase two children. Her experience ranges from picking apricots in 100 degree weather to discussing ag trade with the Ambassador of New Zealand.

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