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Women in Ag: Recruitment and Retention



Women in Ag:  Recruitment and Retention

A closer look at employment and benefits

By Bonnie Johnson,


What is the perception vs. reality of women’s employment numbers in the agricultural industry? More than half of employers responding to the 2016-2017 Agribusiness HR Review said their proportion of female employees has grown over the past five years.  However, when surveyed women in agriculture, 70% reported feeling outnumbered by men in agriculture (Gender Roles & Equality in Agribusiness Survey).  Meanwhile, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics noted that women were substantially underrepresented in agriculture (Women in the Labor Force, February 2013).


When we look at building the future talent pipeline to agriculture, it’s important that organizations encourage a diverse talent pool to choose the industry.  Are your organization’s policies and benefits attractive to both men and women? 


A Look at Benefits

In the Gender Roles survey, asked employees in agriculture which benefits they valued most.  For women, health insurance was at the top, followed by flexible hours, 401K/retirement, bonus and maternity leave.


When we examined these benefits a little closer by age of the respondent, there was no significant difference between women’s age groups in their desire for flexible working hours, indicating all women regardless of age place this benefit towards the top of their list.  When recruiting new college graduates, organizations may want to take note that young women aged 18-25 held tuition reimbursement and maternity leave in higher regard than other age groups, whereas mobile phones and bonuses were not as important to them.


Maternity leave was in the top five of valued benefits for women, but paternity leave did not make the list for men.  In an article written by Caterina Fake, co-founder of Flickr, she brought forth an interesting perspective on this topic. Fake notes that having a paternity leave policy equal to a maternity leave is just as important because it communicates through your policies that, “Caring for children and family members is the responsibility of both men and women, and also that your company’s work is the responsibility of both men and women,” stated Fake.


In the Gender Roles survey, 35% of all respondents were unsure if their employer provided a maternity/paternity leave policy outside of their government-regulated program.  This indicates that better benefit communication policies might be warranted to educate employees on these parental programs. 


Female respondents reported feeling the stressors of being a working parent more than men.  Does your organization provide benefits that can lower these stressors, such as child-care reimbursement, paid time off to care for family members or flexible working hours? 


For example, more than 35% of agricultural employers said they have adopted a flexible staffing approach, most commonly flexibility in schedule, a work from home option, or core hours with flexibility outside of those core hours (2016-2017 Agribusiness HR Review).  Highlight these and other work/life/family balance initiatives during the interview process.  The Gender Roles survey found that employees with children under the age of 18 were more likely to take notice of these policies and rate them positively. 


While creating benefit packages that are attractive to both genders is the first step, communicating these benefits can be an even more crucial element in recruitment and retention. 


Download the full Gender Roles & Equality in Agribusiness Survey Report for additional details on compensation, advancement, advocacy and more.