• Empower Blog Series Part 1: Strides Towards Equality

July 28, 2017 2 Comments

By Ali Luety

Women’s role in agriculture has been richly defined by many, from stories such as Little House on the Prairie to Dodge Ram’s “So God Made a Farmer” commercial. However, these stories and media portrayals barely scrape the surface when it comes to the vast roles women play in agriculture. Based on 233 responses from a FarmHer survey in 2016, over 62% of women think that gender matters more than age when it comes to gaining respect. The FarmHer Empower survey told us that women have faith in the future, as nearly 80% of women either defined themselves as successful or well on their way to becoming successful. (2)

FarmHer knows women are involved in agriculture by the many stories that are captured through the lens of FarmHer. We share the stories through imagery, television, and the FarmHer blog. But something we’ve never shared before was the statistics, until now.

Ali Luety, the 2016 FarmHer intern, got to work taking surveys and talking to FarmHers during her summer with FarmHer. Each week for the next four weeks, FarmHer will be sharing the takeaways and statics from that research. You can find the complete “FarmHer Empower Survey” here.

Women are making strides in equality when it comes to agriculture. People are interested in where food comes from and how it was grown and women have the power to tell a great story. What’s more, women outnumber men in owning smaller farms. (4)


What Statistics Say:

  • The median annual earnings in STEM careers that require a university degree of women was $64,000, meanwhile, their male counterparts earned $78,000. (5)
  • Men are 2.2 times more likely to work in a STEM career than women. (5)
  • The gender wage gap is not expected to close until 2058. (5)
  • About 4.6% of women work in STEM occupations, compared to 10.3% of men. (5)
  • In 2013, the median annual earnings for millennial women working full-time was $30,000, even though men earned $5,000 more each year. (6)
  • One out of every 100 women work in agriculture, forestry, and fisheries industry while more than 3 out of every 100 men work in the same industry. (7)
  • Nearly 78% of women-operated farms have less than $10,000 in sales. (10)
  • 3/5 of all women operators are working on farms operated by men, most likely their husband. (7)


While the above statistics give reason to be discouraged, others offer hope for the future. Although we have a ways to go, we have a lot to celebrate.

  • The women-to-men earnings ratio in 2009 was 85% in agriculture, beating out nearly all other industries such as education, business, retail, and health. Only the construction industry is higher with a 92% ratio. (7)
  • Women farm operators have more education than both their male counterparts and U.S. households in general, with 61.3% of principal operators achieving some college education. Only 47.1% of male principal operators achieved some college education. (7)

    While it is evident woman are impactful and valuable, we still have to fight for equality. The statistics above, while there is evidence of progress, show a continued need for improvement. Women need to be more appropriately valued by receiving equal earnings, having career and promotion opportunities, and by breaking down stereotypes to improve confidence and earn respect where it is due.

    Next week, check out the FarmHer Empower Blog Series for Part 2: Crafting Confidence.



    1.Robert Hoppe and Penni Korb. (April 2013). Economic Information Bulletin No. (EIB- 111). USDA. Economic Research Service. “Characteristics of Women Farm Operators and Their Farms”. See https://www.ers.usda.gov/webdocs/publications/eib111/37013_eib111_summary.pdf

    2.FarmHer Empower Survey, SurveyMonkey, conducted September 8-12, 2016

    3.USDA, 2012, 2012 Census of Agriculture, “Women in Agriculture” see https://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/usdahome?contentid=women-in-ag.html

    4.Roenberk, Lori. (June 2, 2013). “Breaking the grass ceiling: On U.S. farms, women are taking the reins”. See http://grist.org/food/breaking-the-grass-ceiling-on-u-s-farms-women-are-taking-the-reins/

    5.IWPR Status of Women in the States. (2013). “Employment and Earnings”. See http://statusofwomendata.org/explore-the-data/employment-and-earnings/employment-and-earnings/#SeeMoreontheEmploymentandEarningsof

    6.IWPR Status of Women in the States. (2013). “Employment and Earnings of Millennials”. See http://statusofwomendata.org/millennials/#spotlightmillennialsee

    7.Bureau of Labor Statistics. (014). “Highlights of Women's Earnings”. See https://www.bls.gov/opub/reports/womens-earnings/archive/highlights-of-womens-earnings-in-2014.pdf

    2 Responses

    Philip McArdle
    Philip McArdle

    July 31, 2017

    I’m surprised at the difference in salaries. I thought the big Chemical Co’s were making an effort to hire more females and minorities.I’m retired but when I started in the seed business with Pioneer in the early 1970’s it was almost a totally male dominated industry.

    Leslye Schneider
    Leslye Schneider

    July 28, 2017

    We FarmHer(s) have to become so strong in numbers and successful in our farming endeavors that we are not only noticed but respected for all we have to contribute to not just the agricultural industry but the economy as well. In addition we will serve as shinning role models for the generations to come and help them pave the way to a more equalized farming world that will be more important than ever in the years to come. It’s crucial that we help, support, educate and share with other FarmHer(s) our knowledge and wisdom to bring all of us as a group. The old saying “there is power in numbers” certainly applies here.

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