5 Tips & Tricks for Getting Ahead – The Old Boys Club

A curation of tips and strategies that will help you combat the old boys club, move forward in your career and help others to do so as well.

By Natalie Walt

  1. networkFind a mentor

We’ve talked a lot about mentorship at Ag Women’s Network (AWN) and the importance of finding someone that can support you in your growth both personally and professionally. A mentor is someone that can provide guidance for choosing your career path, learning news skills, improving your current skill-set, and help you join a board. Your mentor should be someone that has similar interests and has experience in the field that you are seeking advancement within.

Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for advice from someone you think would make an excellent mentor because they are more than likely willing to help out. In my experience, I was incredibly shy and self-conscious when sending the first email, but my efforts were always met with enthusiasm and positivity. People are always willing to help- you just have to ask!

It’s important for women to remember that they don’t always need to limit themselves by only asking for mentorship support from other women. Don’t be afraid to seek mentorship from a male colleague. 

2) Be a mentor

Most of us can agree that at some point along the way in our careers, we have sought  advice and support from someone else. Over the years, I have been blessed to know several people who have taken the time to offer their advice to me when I have been in the middle of making fairly daunting steps in my career path. Their wisdom and experienced advice were invaluable to me as rookie in the field.

That being said, it’s important to also consider ourselves as mentors for someone else. You have so much more to offer than you often realize. While we often think that we need to find a mentor for ourselves, we should also consider that there is a generation of fantastic individuals behind us that could also benefit from our mentoring.  Do not hesitate to lend a hand to someone that you think is doing a terrific job in their work or is starting out in the field.

3) Don’t look for just  single mentor, but rather, find a tribe

tips_pic_1In life, we do not consult just one single expert for everything. For example, you do not rely on your doctor for legal advice so why should you limit yourself to one expert to guide you in your career?

Consider this to be kind of like finding a board of directors for your career.  Connect with people that can lend their expertise to a variety of areas like finance, human resources, technical, etc.  I have one person that I always call on when I need personal finance advice because he is an accountant and knows that area inside out. I call on my friend Tony when I need technical advice because he is a digital genius. The list goes on. Depending on the situation, I know just who to call and seek guidance from. Within our careers and volunteer affiliations, it’s important to build a group of people that can lend experienced knowledge as no one single person is an expert on everything.

4) Be aggressive

Simply put, have the courage to put yourself out there and go after the career you so desire.  We miss %100 of the chances we don’t take.

-Send the email or message to that person you’ve been wanting to connect with. If they don’t have time to meet in person, ask to schedule a phone call with them.

-Do the follow up after meeting them. Oftentimes we make great connections at tradeshows or events, but then fail to follow through and send the email afterwards to actually continue the conversation. This next step is key and should be done within a day or two of the initial meeting.

-Don’t be afraid to seek advice from a group (like AWN) as to who to connect with. Be specific in your request and likely someone will be able to help point you in the right direction.

women_in_biz5) Find the ‘water cooler’

Determine where the best place to get your foot in the door is and show up. You have to be present and put yourself out there for connections and conversations to happen. Take a look around your industry and figure out where people are making the connections that you want to be a part of.  Every industry is different and agriculture is no exception, but there are a lot of events and organizations to get involved in outside of work that could be great places to start.

For example, trade shows like the Outdoor Farm Show are very well-attended and have a lot of representation from businesses and organizations all across the industry. In agribusiness, a lot of these interactions take place on the golf course.  I’m not much of an experienced golfer, but I have learned that many of the customer appreciation days or industry events involve golf so I have proactively forced myself to get better and even purchased my first ever set of clubs.

Making Waves in Agribusiness – Industry Spotlight: Jenny Van Rooy

By Natalie Walt

Jenny Van Rooy is a rural gal from Bruce County with strong family ties to farming and agriculture. Now, as a dynamic, young agricultural professional, she states that agriculture is not just a career choice, but rather a way of life. She currently resides in Kincardine, ON, where she stays busy co-managing her own business, The Westland Corporation. I had the opportunity to get into the nitty-gritty with her and talk about the Old Boys Club and the impact that it has had on her launching her own business in a historically male-dominated industry. You can follow Jenny on twitter at @jennyvanrooy or you can check out the Westland Corp. @thewestlandcorp

Being Bold and Taking the leap into Business Ownership

jenny_van_rooy_profile_postIf I could have summarized this interview in one word, it would most definitely be ‘optimistic’. Jenny Van Rooy is the real deal. As an ambitious entrepreneur in agribusiness, she has successfully built The Westland Corporation into a prosperous new business  that is continually evolving as they are currently in a stage of expansion.

The Westland Corporation is a grain brokerage firm that is agriculturally driven and focused. They bring together clients  ranging from grain producers, to licensed dealers to end users and international trading companies. As part-owner, Jenny can be found brokering deals throughout the day, while also taking care of all other aspects included in running a business.  She loves the variety of challenges continually presented to her and is extremely motivated by the discovery of unending opportunities in this industry.

When asked about her reasons for deciding to take the plunge and start her own business along with long-time friend and co-owner, Brock Lowry, she said that they both saw an opportunity that would enable them to combine their skills and ambitious work ethic to build something that was truly unique.  She states, “As a business owner, I forever need to be innovative, driven and focused”.  Now, almost two years since inception, The Westland Corporation has hit their stride and is growing their team and business offerings to provide even more value to their growing client base.

Dealing with Challenges and Staying Positive

With this weeks’ focus on the Old Boys Club(OBC) mentality, I asked Jenny what her thoughts were on this and whether it was still an obstacle for her as a female business owner. I found her answer very honest and refreshing.

jenny-combineI really don’t feel like the OBC attitude persists much anymore. Overtime I think this attitude has slowly faded. I talk to grain traders that have been in the Ontario grain trade for multiple decades, they tell me stories of how it “once was” – let me tell you that attitude and behaviour is not present anymore. Slowly over the decades there has been a shift. Any OBC attitude that’s left in the trade is very minor. -Jenny Van Rooy

That being said, she has run into her share of situations where she has felt that a client wasn’t taking her seriously. Instead of getting frustrated, Jenny says the key is to not take it personally and to work on slowly building their respect. The payoff takes a little longer, but in her experience, the feeling of earning their respect and gaining their business is the ultimate win-win.

Jenny further explains that she in no way suggests that there aren’t barriers for women in our industry.  However, she states that we have come a long way and that now is the time to focus on the future.  Instead of dwelling on how bad it can be, let’s focus on how great it’s going to get.  She highlights the need for organizations like the Ag Women’s Network to be a vehicle for change and provide tools that will enable us to become the best agricultural professionals we can be.

Looking Towards the Future

Reflecting on her experience in launching her own business, Jenny says that perspective, persistence and professionalism have been key skills that have allowed her to move forward from the OBC attitude and towards successful business relationships. She emphasizes the need stay focused, prove your worth and the results will come. The doors of opportunity are open for men AND women.

Last words: Jenny’s advice for young women in agriculture

You have set yourself up in a great position, the agriculture industry is full of unlimited opportunity for so many different skill sets. Find something you enjoy and excel at, set your goals and charge after them with undeniable drive and persistence! At this early stage in your career this is a good time to try various different streams and roles within agriculture – it’s a big industry, don’t limit yourself!

AWN take over – The ‘Old Boys Club’

Next week, our very own Natalie Walt is taking over AWN!! She has curated a entire week focusing on the ‘Old Boys Club’ and how it affects women in ag. There will be posts on the AWN blog as well as intriguing content from other sources to provide a well-rounded overview of this challenge. We hope you will join in the conversation on Facebook and Twitter and we are excited to hear your stories and share your advice!

Focus Week-The 'Old Boys Club- final.png

You can follow along on Facebook and Twitter @agwomensnetwork. If you want to get in touch with Natalie directly, you can follow her on twitter @nwalt!

Change is hard – leaving the family farm

By Carolyn Kozak

20151101_164922-effectsMy parents sold the family farm this year. We have spent the summer cleaning up two generations worth of stuff and there is still so much to do. The news for officially selling the farm was sparked with an abundance of different emotions. As a kid, I always imagined I’d live on or near the home farm in the country, and I have always lived close to my parents and currently live in a town nearby. How could this be my reality? I couldn’t have imagined that the farm would be sold within my lifetime and that I would have to get used to another family enjoying the landscape, the beautiful canopy driveway and what was once my family home.

My parents bought a bungalow on fifty acres about an hour and half away near my brother’s farm. They are still going to be involved in farming in a different community, but change is always hard.  It has taken some time, and has been a rollercoaster of emotions to fully process, but I can accept that the move does make sense for the future. My parents are getting older and the move will centralize all the farm land within a ten-minute radius. It just doesn’t make sense to spend hours convoying equipment back and forth anymore. The logistics alone had become a daunting task and my parents are ready for a retirement friendly home.

20160925_133622Moving the farm has sparked some serious nostalgia because I love the farm. As a kid, I spent hours, upon hours playing with barn cats each summer. I became an exceptional kitten catcher, which led to the tamest, most ridiculously named cats, ever. One summer, I managed to take enough cat photos to fill a whole film, and then proceeded to create a photo album that almost exclusively featured cats with all of their names labelled which I still have to this day. In case you’re wondering, I didn’t turn out to be a crazy cat lady, although, my Mom did mention that she was surprised that I didn’t have any cats at my house.

Every farm kid also remembers one of the most ‘enjoyable’ jobs walking up and down the fields in the spring, picking stones. However, even simple tasks like these have been changed by technology advancements since my childhood. It is interesting to think about how agriculture and agri-food career opportunities have adapted in the last 20 years. There have been entire new sectors and jobs created through technological advancements such as alternate uses for crops like bio-products or fuel.  Services like drones and GPS technologies are revolutionizing farm equipment. There also continues to be a trend toward fewer small family farms, but these industry changes have meant that there are lot of jobs options available for individuals living in urban settings to be involved in agriculture along the value chain.

Jobs in agriculture and agri-food no longer just include the historical stereotypes of farming. As the jobs within agriculture and agri-food change, the number of individuals who grew up on farms will decrease but there will still be a large number of jobs within the agriculture community that need to be filled in these new and innovative sectors.  While these changes to the family farm have been difficult, I am so thankful the industry has evolved in a way where I am able to use my farm knowledge and strengths to remain actively involved in agriculture. The home farm may be sold, and times may be changing, but there will always be a way to stay involved in this wonderful, evolving industry.

Join us for #AWNChat during Advancing Women’s Conference

We’re excited to let you know that we will be hosting #AWN Chat throughout the Advancing Women Conference in Toronto.  There will be live tweeting about the event, comments by AWN members attending and some questions/comments that we would like to present as discussion items.  We want you to be involved! We will be hosting this through Twitter and it will be active from mid-morning Monday, October 3rd to mid-afternoon Tuesday, October 4th.  Join in whenever it suits your schedule!!! 

twitter-awnFor our members who are not on Twitter, we will be posting some of the #AWNChat content on our Facebook Group page.  We want to give as many women as possible the opportunity to virtually join the AWCeast2016.  We hope you understand that it is difficult to attend a conference like this AND keep up a conversation on both Twitter and Facebook.  So, this time the main focus is Twitter but there will be lots to follow on Facebook as well.

For those of you who are attending the Advancing Women Conference, we are looking forward to connecting with you there.  You can find us at the CAHRC booth as they kindly offered to share their space with us.  We will be handing out AWN stickers for people to place on their nametags.  This will make a great way to connect with other AWN members or to tell conference attendees about AWN. 

If you are attending, we have a unique way for you to participate in the #AWNChat.  Our “AWN Roving Reporter” will be approaching AWN members to give comments, if they wish, that can be used as tweets. She might even ask for a photo or two.  Our goal is to CONNECT and to be VIRTUALLY YOURS!

Nurturing a new career in agriculture – Lindsay Stallman

Despite growing up with agricultural roots, Lindsay Stallman didn’t consider being a part of the industry until opportunities after university led her back to school and back to agriculture. Now the Liaison Officer for the Ontario Agricultural College at the University of Guelph, Lindsay is growing a new enthusiasm for food and agriculture.

Please tell us a bit about yourself and your career path.

Lindsay_small_file.pngI’m originally from Burtch, ON, a small community in Brant County. I grew up around my extended family’s variety of agricultural operations: a dairy farm, cash crop farms, an equine operation, and a zoo! Despite all this, as a teenager, with a limited idea of what it could mean to work in agriculture, I eliminated it pretty quickly as a potential career choice for me.

I attended the University of Waterloo where I earned a BA in English Language with a minor in Human Resources Management. In 2014, I moved to Alberta to accept a position at Olds College as a Student Recruitment Officer. Olds is best known for its agricultural related programs. I spent a year and a half in that role, and agriculture was suddenly a central part of my life again. I began to understand the breadth of opportunities in agriculture, especially outside of production.

In October 2015 I accepted the position of Liaison Officer at the Ontario Agricultural College (OAC) at the University of Guelph. I am responsible for coordinating outreach for high school students, providing learning opportunities related to OAC programs, and promoting educational and career pathways related to agriculture. I feel so passionately about what I do. I didn’t expect to work in agriculture, and I think that allows me to be an even better spokesperson and ambassador for the agriculture and food sectors

Tell us about your role and what your “typical day” looks like.

One of the best things about my job is that I don’t have many ‘typical days,’ at least few of my days are exactly alike. In my job I am responsible for planning on-campus events for high school students, which includes coordinating facility tours, hands-on workshops, and lectures. I attend external events related to agriculture and food, and assist in developing new learning materials for high school students and educators. I get to work with OAC faculty from various departments and I am always learning new things from them.

How do you define personal success? What steps do you take to get there?

As someone who is still new in their career, establishing priorities, setting goals and developing a plan towards reaching them is really important. However, I don’t know that I would be as motivated or as effective if I didn’t have a job that I love. I have a unique opportunity every day to encourage and support students. I get to inspire them to consider new and exciting opportunities that they might never have considered before. For me, having personal success requires a balance in professional and personal gratification.

What’s the biggest professional/personal challenge you’ve had to face? And what did you learn from that experience?

My biggest professional challenge is probably one that many young professionals are experiencing: simply being young in the workplace. Being a young professional often results in other labels which underestimate abilities and talent. When we talk about discrimination, stereotypes and diversity in the workplace, age somehow gets thrown to the wayside. Being young should not undermine credibility. I continue to grow through this experience; what I’ve learned so far? Be professional, work hard, stand up for yourself and people will recognize your value.

Who has been your greatest influencer/mentor? What have you learned from them?

I am so lucky that this is a hard question to answer. I have an amazing family, and I have been influenced by so many incredible professionals as well. My Grandpa was one of the hardest working, most caring people I have known. He taught me to be many things, but above all showed me the importance of being honest and genuinely kind to others.

Learning from our mistakes is an important, but sometimes tough, part of life. In the spirit of these profiles helping others, are you willing to share a mistake you made but taught you something important?

I once missed out on a great professional opportunity because I didn’t apply for it. I really didn’t think I had a shot. The manager later approached me and asked what held me back, saying that I would have been perfect for the role. It really taught me how much a lack of self-confidence can hold me back and that I will only get opportunities if I advocate for myself.

How do you define agriculture?

Agriculture is bigger than most people think. It affects every person, every day, and not only because it produces the food we eat and clothes we wear. It is at the heart of Canada’s economy; it greatly impacts trade and commerce and employs 1 in 8 Canadians. Agriculture involves environmental science, food science, community development and more. It is complex and innovative in science and technology. Agriculture is exciting and evolving as we are met with new challenges every day.

What do you think is the most important topic in agriculture right now? Or what should be?

Being at OAC allows me to learn new things from the experts every day. However, the more time I spend here the more I understand how little I know about agriculture. There are so many people at Guelph who do incredible and diverse things yet are all contributing to agriculture in different ways, addressing various kinds of questions. There are so many important topics in agriculture right now. For me, I think agriculture matters the most to the future of development and fighting poverty around the world.

What solutions, tools or processes do you think could be put in place to help advance Canadian women, and specifically Canadian women in agriculture? 

Connecting with other women in agriculture has made a big difference for me. I have been lucky to know some remarkable women and men who are committed to supporting women and making the agriculture industry an even better, and more diverse, place for women to advance in their careers.  I’m hoping to attend the Advancing Women in Ag Conference in October, and encourage women to take opportunities like that. There are support networks and incredible who are willing to share their experiences and advice.

Do you have a piece of advice for young women starting their career in agriculture?

I have been so positively influenced by the women in my life and truly believe in the value of having a strong mentor who can share their experiences, inspire you, and encourage your growth.

9 Tips to Deal with Sexism and Combat Unconscious Bias in Agriculture

Listening to Courtney Denard’s recent interview on Wendall Schumm and Christine Eisler’s podcast “Come Over Here & Say That”, I found myself smiling when Courtney said, “I don’t think there’s any point sitting around and bitching for four hours and then no one does anything about it”.

She was talking about politicians, but I couldn’t help but think about our unconscious bias discussion. We continue to hear stories of women in agriculture who have faced sexism or bias from both genders. Fortunately, the stories are being shared in good humour and to be clear, we don’t feel like we are bitching.

These stories are being shared to create awareness. Even if you’ve personally experienced sexism, it can still be hard to recognize thanks to our own biases. When you do see it though, what do you do? How should you deal with it when it happens to you?

So, to wrap up our discussion of unconscious bias and sexism, we are sharing some tips we have gathered from our members and online sources to combat the engrained stereotypes.

In short, we want to do something about this.

9 Tips to Deal with Sexism & Unconscious Bias in Agriculture

Have you faced sexism or bias? How did you deal with it? What suggestions would you have for our readers? Please share in the comments!

  1. Recognize your own biases and admit to them. It might feel uncomfortable (embarrassing or shameful even), particularly because bias is often rooted in beliefs or options.
  2. Listen. When someone has experienced bias and they share it with you, listen. Don’t try to minimize the event or find reason. Half the battle is accepting bias exists. Talk about it and don’t shy away if the conversation becomes awkward. Awkward conversations can lead to the best understanding, because you are being vulnerable in those moments and open to learning.
  3. Start at home. How we raise our children is how the next generation will see the world. You don’t have to commit to a gender-neutral environment, but you can encourage your children to play with whatever toy they wish and try activities that interest them. We have a unique opportunity in agriculture because our kids also see our work, so strive to give them equal chores inside the house and barn and compensate them equally, if you do allowance.
  4. Call It Out. Trying to teach our children equality is difficult when reps and visitors might assume differently. We have to call these situations out, as difficult as they can be. There are a couple tactics to do this. Humour can help sometimes while restating the comment as a question is another. “If I heard you correctly, you believe only my husband is capable of this task, is that correct?” Most likely they will immediate realize the error of their words.
  5. Be proactive when meeting new people. Extend your hand first, introduce yourself, give an “I” sentence or two – before they start into their introduction.  It sets a tone that you are willing to be in charge of the situation and confident about yourself.  Removing the phrase “I’m just a ….” is also important.  Whatever role you play on the farm, or off the farm, you are important.
  6. Stand together. If you’ve tried to call sexism out and it continues, there are a couple of options. Everyone deserves respect. In a workplace, report it. On the farm, you might consider asking to speak to the individual’s manager. At a minimum, agree as a business team to not work with those who don’t respect everyone on the team. The support of our partner / father / brother(s) is critical. We’re in this together.
  7. Prove ‘em wrong. Time and time again, women have mentioned the best way to earn respect from those around you is to be good at what you do and work hard. Work ethic goes a long way in this industry regardless of gender. If you’re new, ask questions to learn and your enthusiasm will be recognized.
  8. Change your language. Words like “showperson” and “chairperson” instead of “showman” and “chairman” might seem small but they are significant. Probably not many industries ask “ladies bring lunch” and neither should we. If it’s potluck, then a statement around bringing lunch will do.
  9. Help a sister out! We know women aren’t as likely to speak up in meetings or lay claim to their good work or ideas. Support each other and speak up for others in meetings or group discussions. It worked for Obama’s staffers so surely it can work at your next farmers’ meeting.

img_9437Finally, if you work in agriculture (or any industry for that matter), you can save yourself a lot of trouble by not assuming. Address everyone at the table, ask how they are involved (and consider women are more likely to downplay their role) and seek out their opinions.

Truly, reducing unconscious bias starts with ourselves. Gandhi is often quoted as saying, “be the change you want to see in the world.” I recently learned his actual words were much deeper.

We but mirror the world. All the tendencies present in the outer world are to be found in the world of our body. If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. – Mahatma Gandhi

Indeed, we can only control ourselves and in doing so, we set an example for others to follow. Reduce our own bias and be more open, and those around us will start to be more open also.

For more tips on how to deal with sexism at work, check out Feminist Fight Club. We haven’t read it yet ourselves but we loved the no-bullshit interview with Jessica Bennet, the author.

-Jen C. & Joan C.