Expand Your Reach – And Your Sphere of Influence

2186. It’s not the latest GPS screen from John Deere.

2186 is the year that women will finally achieve wage parity, according to the World Economic Forum report released in the fall.

“When measured in terms of income and employment, the gender gap has widened in the past four years; at 59%, it is now at a similar level to that seen in the depths of the financial crisis in 2008.”

So, it’s not really surprising the United Nations chose the theme “Be Bold For Change” for International Women’s Day earlier this month. Indeed, bold actions are needed to end the injustice women face in the world. Even in our country and industry, where women are granted equal rights, there is a very real gender wage gap and women are still expected to do the majority of the unpaid housework and child rearing.

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Bold actions look different for everyone. What is “bold” for me may be no big deal for you and terrifying still for someone else. What is important is we are consciously making the decision to step out of our comfort zone, even if it’s just to question the unacceptable “acceptable” sexism which exists in our society.

 

That was the message from Claire Cowan, one of the speaker’s at this week’s AWN event, held in conjunction with the Perth Soil & Crop Improvement Association.

IMG_2731Cowan described the spheres of influence we each have and how we need focus first on ourselves, then slowly move outwards to change our behaviour and eventually, hopefully, attitudes around us will also change.

“Get comfortable with your awkwardness,” she suggested, offering tips for how to react (or not react) when you face an inappropriate comment in the workplace or industry.

Addressing Your Spheres of Influence:

  • Recognize your own biases in the thoughts that enter your head or words and phrases you use.
  • Point out to your colleagues (especially men) when you witness sexism. They may not realize its happening.
  • Have a conversation with them about what they can do to support you and stand up against this behaviour.
  • Ask. Ask if your company has done a gender wage study and what they are doing with the results. Ask your commodity board the same question. Ask if they have a strategy to engage more diverse voices on the board.
  • Make it happen. I see many women leave the corporate world to run a business on their own. Whether you’re a farm or providing ag services, make sure your biases aren’t creating an unfair gender balance.

Claire_and_Christina_at_AWN_Event

Step Up, Speak Up, Get Social

Even still, standing up to speak in a meeting or putting our ideas out there is intimidating. I still get nervous and often miss the opportunity to ask a question in a forum, because I’m too scared to step to the mic.

If we get over this though, we can “expand our reach” even further, because as Christina Crowley-Arklie shared;

“Everyone can be good at communication. It doesn’t cost anything or require formal education.”

Christina may have been born a public speaker, but having personally witnessed shy 4-H members develop the confidence and skill to speak in front of an audience, I believe she is right.

Knowing your audience and how to catch their attention is key. Christina cited the U.S. election as an example of where this strategy was employed with incredible precision and great success.

Once you’ve prepped, Christina offered the following  tips on delivering a good presentation.

Tips For Delivering A Good Presentation

  • Warm up by saying the phrase, “Tip of the Tongue, the Teeth, the Lips”. It’s a tongue twister and will get you prepped to speak clearly when you take the mic.
  • Dress for success. If you look your best, you will also feel your best.
  • Get in your comfort zone. Arrive early and make sure all the technology works and you’re comfortable with it.
  • Have your necessary props. If all you need is a “clicker” and you plan to do more speaking or run future events, consider buying one and bring it along with spare batteries.
  • Eyes on the sky. If making eye contact freaks you out, scan the room looking just over people’s heads.

Finally, with social media providing us with an opportunity to share our message with lots of people, it is still very hard to create the personal impact and connection that a well-delivered presentation or speech can have. The best way to practice is by doing, so when you’re ready to reach that next sphere of influence, put yourself out there and be heard!

Follow Christina on Twitter  and check out her blog, The Passionate Voice. for more about public speaking, personal branding and social media.

Follow Claire on Twitter.

Special thanks to the Perth Soil & Crop Improvement Association and all the sponsors whose generous support made this event possible. 

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How can we make the agricultural industry more inclusive?

“Differences of habit and language are nothing at all if our aims are identical and our hearts are open.” J.K. Rowling

By Maggie McCormick

This week, we asked several people to answer the question, how can we make the agricultural industry more inclusive? Here they’ve shared their ideas from each of their unique perspectives.

“Agriculture has many different meanings and practices across the world and from individual to individual. For First Nations people here in Canada, recognizing traditional knowledge and teachings that exist within communities and respecting the differences that exist between different nations is a place to start when looking at making agriculture more inclusive. Some nations focused on agriculture production, while others have had limited exposure. Listening to the needs and wants of all generations is a key place to start when looking to work with First Nations communities.” – Marlene Paibomesai

“This is such a great question with so many answers. For me personally, inclusivity focuses on physical/mobility challenges. I use a manual wheelchair which requires ramps, wide enough doors and adaptable equipment. Through 4-H I was given the opportunity to show various types of livestock which would not have been possible without the support of others. See how a person can interact with an animal and help make it possible for them.  I’m currently looking into driving, and in the agriculture context, farming equipment would have to be adapted to meet my physical needs. I’m currently not aware whether this is available or not, but if it’s not, it’s something that should be thought of and done. My limits have been all my life, but some may unfortunately come to an accident where life is changed for them and adapted equipment would be important for them to keep doing what they love to do. For the office side of agriculture, make the businesses of agriculture equal opportunity to work behind the scenes in, whether that’s office jobs or even those jobs that go to different events to promote their industry.” Lesleigh Elgie

“The first step is to recognize that the industry is already filled with diverse people. From ethnicity, religions, family structures, genders, and sexual orientations, the ag industry has many people with a different narrative than traditional ones. Recognizing this, and rejecting the notion of a single narrative, is the first step of many needed to create an industry that is inclusive, safe and accessible for those with differing identities.” Martin Straathof, Guelph Pride Committee

“Born and raised a city girl in Toronto, I know how few resources there are for learning about opportunities in agriculture; it is an industry that is rarely presented to urbanites as an option. Careers in marketing, journalism, research, sales, and business management go unnoticed because all we see are farms. If we could showcase how dynamic and expansive the industry is to kids at a young age, specifically in city schools and at downtown fairs and events, and celebrate, not denigrate, their “innocence” in ag, we would go a long way to building inclusivity for urbanites.” Holly McGill

I’ve experienced people creating an environment of “in” vs. “outsiders”. Oddly, this has come from people who likely experienced this from someone else, but are just perpetuating it as a defence. People enjoy being comfortable, but to make change we are going to have to make things uncomfortable and call it out.” M. Wilson-Wong

Win-win: Inclusivity for a growing industry

By Maggie McCormick

Agriculture is moving into some exciting spaces. Consumers are interested in what they’re eating, science and technology are advancing, and food, fibre, fuel and feed will never be unnecessary. Just because it’s exciting however, doesn’t mean there aren’t hurdles along the way. Canadian agriculture is going to need talent to propel it to a place that allows farmers to continue to grow food efficiently, safely and in a way that pleases the end user all at the same time.

In 2012, the Ontario Agricultural College released Planning for Tomorrow, a report on hiring trends in Ontario agriculture. It found that demand for post-secondary graduates in the food and agriculture industry far exceeded supply. In the 2015 Canadian report by AgCareers, the job posting service saw a steady increase in agriculture job postings. In November, research by the Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council determined “[t]he gap between labour demand and the domestic workforce in agriculture has doubled from 30,000 to 59,000 in the past ten years and projections indicate that by 2025, the Canadian agri-workforce could be short workers for 114,000 jobs.” Scientists, engineers, software designers, marketing professionals, educators – agriculture is going to need them all and more.

In addition to the many positions available to be filled, millennials have said they expect to change jobs every three years. The high turn over rate means agriculture will constantly be competing for millennial talent, and that of their younger cohort, with the rest of the country.

What do we need to attract talent to agriculture? At a meeting I attended this summer, a bank executive was reflecting on what sectors needed to attract talent. “We know that for sectors to grow they need to have an appealing culture”. If that bit of wisdom holds true, to attract new talent and keep them we are going to need to keep building an inclusive culture.

By building an inclusive culture, newcomers to the industry will have positive experiences in agriculture. They will feel welcome, supported and ready to put down roots in the communities that support the industry. They will bring new ideas that will both support and evolve current practices.

In an inclusive industry, newcomers will better connect agriculture with customers. We need diversity in our industry to help us reach an incredibly diverse customer base. There are so many different regions, ethnicities, languages, traditions and needs to serve. Insight and ideas will be invaluable to growth.

Finally, an inclusive industry makes a healthier environment for newcomers, but also for those already working and living in this space. Becoming more accepting will help everyone feel safer to share their ideas and be true to their entire identity. It will be a space for open dialogue, and everyone will benefit from the culture.

Ideas for building the inclusive culture

Creating positive experiences

Agriculture is steeped in tradition, but often tradition can be a little hard to access if you’re new. Just because some hasn’t participated in a culture doesn’t mean they won’t want to! Celebrate traditions by sharing them and making them easy to access, without judgement. This industry is incredibly unique and has so many opportunities outside the workplace. By inviting newcomers to participate and explaining traditions, it will make agriculture more inclusive and stand out.

An understanding environment

While we’re celebrating traditions, let’s celebrate what newcomers are bringing to the industry. Maybe it’s their own traditions, maybe it’s their perspective on issues, maybe it’s new knowledge and expertise. If someone has an idea, they shouldn’t be shut down because “that’s not how it’s done”. Maybe the way it’s done is getting really worn out anyways! The HR Council notes that “[w]hen individuals feel that they cannot be themselves at work, they will not engage fully as part of the team or in assigned work.” Ag has to be a safe space to share thoughts, feelings and experiences to attract engaged talent.

Open dialogue

To become more inclusive, we need to keep talking about it. Without discussion we will never be able to acknowledge our issues and try new things to fix them. After all that’s part of the reason AWN exists! There are some obvious ground rules to beginning a dialogue: don’t make assumptions and don’t force it. A good discussion involves a lot of listening, rather than jumping ahead. If someone has a unique perspective, they will share if they want to. Overall though, the more we discuss it, the more comfortable we will all be about addressing industry challenges.

In the end an inclusive culture doesn’t really need justification. “Welcome all people” is a statement I’m sure most can get behind. However, there are definitely some added benefits if the industry can grow and strengthen at the same time.

Wielding the power of words

By Maggie McCormick

“Words are, in my not-so-humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic. Capable of both inflicting injury, and remedying it.” J.K. Rowling

I hope you’re not sick of J.K.’s wisdom yet!

At a recent family dinner, we were discussing whether I would change my last name when I get married next year. This of course led to a deep dive into a multi-layered discussion of names. In our blended family, there are three different last names that also represent a mixture of ethnicities. My step-sister, whose last name is hyphenated Scottish and Chinese names, said that growing up it felt critical to her that she shared one of my step-mom’s names because so often people made assumptions that she was adopted based on her appearance. For her that name, that word, held the power of belonging and also deflection of other’s assumptions.

There are a lot of opinions out there about the power of words. To some, a word only holds as much power as you give it. Sticks and stones and all that. For others they are tools that can help or harm depending on how you use them. In my workplace we have lengthy debates about the use of a single word, because our communication roles are about perception – about how our words will be interpreted by the receiver.

Words are given power by the sender, but it’s most important that we consider the receiver first when we set out to build an inclusive environment.

A perfect example are jokes. A friend makes a joke about someone of a different ethnicity, religion, gender or sexual orientation, but you’re sure they would never discriminate or intentionally hurt someone with that background. For the receiver, that doesn’t really matter; nor does it matter if those joked about are present. Careless words, whether there is intended malice or not, can create a toxic environment.

The Meaning and Messages Behind Words

This effect is often referred to as “microaggression”, a term first coined by Prof. Chester M. Pierce of Harvard University in 1970 and has since expanded.

“Microaggressions are the everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, which communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalized group membership.”Derald Wing Sue Ph.D. (Psychology Today)

A very useful way of illustrating the power of language, and how words might be microaggression, is with this diagram, below (based on this one about covert racism). This triangle reflects words that women might hear. At the top of the triangle are pretty hateful terms but less frequently heard (I hope!). Below the surface are the more common and subvert comments that men and women might hear, read or say everyday.

the-work-pyramid

As women in agriculture, we often discuss the phrases that get on our nerves and undermine our work. “Can I talk to the man in charge?”, “You’re much better looking than the last guy!” “Still waiting on a ring, eh?”. One time is annoyance. Heard regularly, these names, terms, and phrases deliver the message that our industry still lacks respect for women. Even if you’ve never heard them yourself, someone else might dissuade you from certain jobs or spaces because they know the environment that exists.

We can all imagine what other word triangles look like or know them from experience. They can be about anything –  sexual orientation, race, religion, even geographic location. I admit the word “citiot” used to be in my vocabulary and looking back I so embarrassed about that. But even if that particular word isn’t used, the attitude towards city living can be obvious in other word choices. What kind of environment does that create for urbanites who want to join our industry? What does that communicate to our customers, the vast majority of whom live in cities?

What We Can Do

So what do we do to build a more inclusive environment through our words?

It’s important to consider our unconscious biases. Jen and Joan wrote an amazing piece about unconscious bias in September and I suggest revisiting and sharing it. If so much about word choice is unintentional, we all benefit from shining the spotlight on our choices. I shouldn’t have had to move to the city to realize I needed to adjust my attitude and the terms I use.

We can also ask for change. Calling it out when you hear microaggression, whether it’s intentional or not, can create a better environment.

Most important though is to use the power to heal. In the CBC opinion piece “Why ‘they’ matters.”, Julian Paquette discusses pronoun choice and explains why word choice is so powerful to the receiver. It’s not just about the hurt, it’s also about the healing power. “…respecting people’s stated pronouns – though it may seem foreign at first – is a powerful act of respect and inclusion.”

Really thinking about and then choosing words that help and heal can go a long way to building an inclusive environment.

Diversity and Inclusion Week

By Maggie McCormick

“We are only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are divided.” J.K. Rowling

Diversity_&_Inclusion_Image.pngDiversity and inclusion. When I offered to organize a week on this topic, I knew that the words carried so much weight, so much responsibility, that the rest of the words to accompany them would not come easily.

Every time I thought about writing posts for this week, the first thing that came to mind was how unqualified I felt for the topic. In our society, I know I am privileged: a white, Anglo-Saxon, protestant… you know the acronym. I’ve benefitted in a society organized by people with those same attributes. But, of course, this week isn’t about me. It’s about all the great voices who have stepped up to share their stories, their struggles, and their ideas. And of course, it’s about the voices we don’t hear in our industry.

The Ag Women’s Network is quite clearly hard at work trying to encourage inclusion of women in the barn and the boardroom. This week, let’s explore diversity both with and beyond gender. We’ll talk about diversity and inclusion in all kinds of capacities.

So let’s begin at the beginning. What does diversity mean?

Diversity: “the condition of having or being composed of differing elements:  the inclusion of different types of people (as people of different races or cultures) in a group or organization”. (Merriam Webster)

This is a difference in religion, race, appearance, citizenship, sexual orientation and identity, age, gender, mental health, and residence, to name only a few.

Include: “to take in or comprise as a part of a whole or group.” (Merriam Webster)

I don’t think we need to dance around the fact that our industry is not very diverse. How we got here isn’t a tough question. We can look at colonization, immigration, law and other factors of world history to explain how Canadian agriculture ended up in its current composition. Technology has also played a role. At a certain point machinery and breeding advances meant farming was sending people out of the industry to work elsewhere and taking in only a few. Traditions also create barriers for those on the outside.

We’re at a new point in history: our industry is growing and the advances and opportunities mean we need more people in the industry. It’s a time when the industry needs to better understand our customers, so we must get to know them, what they value, and how they speak, socialize, perceive, and, most vitally, eat. We need to build positive relationships with all people in a time when the world is filled with division. It’s more than time to bring in new ideas. It’s time to heal where the exclusion has hurt, even when it was unintentional. It’s time to create an industry that everyone wants to join.

So what to do about it? I believe we are already making some progress but it’s important to examine a problem, and then take action. I’ve asked several people to give their insights this week, and maybe as the week comes to a close we’ll have a clearer picture of what we should do as a group and individually to be more inclusive. This a big, difficult topic, so I ask for your understanding and patience as we begin the conversation this week. Mutual respect and understanding are vital to the topic, but also to the conversation. We may not always get it right, but it’s a start.