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.

 

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2 thoughts on “9 Tips to Deal with Sexism and Combat Unconscious Bias in Agriculture

  1. Pingback: Wielding the power of words | Ag Women's Network

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