New Year – Energized Focus

Happy New Year

As we celebrate our accomplishments in 2015 and look forward to 2016, the Ag Women’s Network blog is also celebrating our first year online.

Rather than reflect on the last year though, we’re excited to share where we’re going this year. We are still all about connections and learning, and we tweaked our mission just slightly to better reflect the intentions of the dynamic women with whom we are engaging.

Our Mission: Connecting and empowering agriculture leaders through sharing, learning and personal development. 

This means we are committed to not just hosting events but ensuring meaningful interactions can take place and people are able to get to know each other more personally. You told us these informal interactions were the most valuable part of the Ag Women’s Network, so we want to better enable these, both live and virtually.

Furthermore, we recognize there are time and travel constraints for many women to be able to attend events. As volunteers with many of the same constraints you face, we appreciate the importance of maximizing the time we commit. This is why we’re hosting a virtual event later this month, so you can participate from wherever is most comfortable. We are also looking at partnership opportunities which allow us to deliver our mission in a way that is more efficient for everyone. In February, we will work with the Innovative Farmers Association Conference to host an event.

Finally, we are super appreciative of your support and ideas over the past three years. With unlimited time or money, we would love to make them all a reality. In lieu of either, we depend on the generosity of our industry and passion of our volunteers to bring a selection of them to fruition.  So long as we are blessed with great volunteers and your encouragement, we will keep this up!

Cheers!

Ag Women’s Network Team

Kirstine Stewart’s Life Lessons Know No Industry Boundaries

"The time is now for new styles of leadership, and women are best suited to set the pace." Kirstine Stewart in Our Turn

Anticipation

October 20, 2015 was the release date for “Our Turn” by Kirstine Stewart.  I waited patiently for my local book store to call to let me know my copy had arrived. Twitter was abuzz with details and positive comments about this hot new book on women and leadership. When the call came, I hurried to the book store.  The owner was as happy to put the book in my hands as I was to receive it.

I selected this book to review after reading Kirstine Stewart’s bio on the Advancing Women website. She had been a keynote speaker at AWCWest2015. I knew her book would be at more corporate and executive level than my daily life, but, I was equally sure she had something to say of importance for all women.

I wondered

….does working your way from Girl Friday to the head of Twitter’s North American Media Partnerships transfer to the world of women working in the businesses and companies that research, develop, support, supply and promote the agricultural industry?

…..would her strategies and wisdom apply to women involved in the business of on-farm production? I wanted to find out what the former head of the CBC might offer those who manage businesses from office windows overlooking animals or on a screen in a tractor cab or at a board room table shaped like the tailgate of truck.

As women engaged in agriculture, our ladders of success are unique.  Stewart’s words for her daughter speak to the value of that uniqueness. “What I tell her about ambition, as I would tell any woman, is that success is not just about climbing.  Leading comes from learning, in all its forms, and personal happiness will only be yours when you choose your own ladder.” (p12)  No matter where you are on your ladder, Stewart’s book guides your next steps!

The Details:

202 pages (very manageable)
$29.95 (most reasonable)
9 Chapters, Multiple subsections (all with captivating titles)
Index (11 pages – love this feature)
Numerous dog-eared pages (New copy does not come with this feature, must read & mark important pages)

Reading Response #1 – Dust Jacket Success

Kirstine Stewart’s photo greets me as I open the cover of my shiny new book. The front flap accomplishes its’ purpose.  I am intrigued by the statement “Simply put: the time is now for new styles of leadership, and women are best suited to set the pace.”

Reading Response #2 – Did I Make the Right Choice?

Stewart’s writing is current, honest and impressive.  It’s high profile, corporate and speaks to her experiences at Paragon Entertainment, Alliance Atlantis, CBC/Radio-Canada and Twitter Canada.  I can’t help but wonder how her words will apply to me and my readers. Page 3 has already given me a positive indicator.  Stewart gives importance to working at a bookshop, library and an agricultural museum (Milton??) by including them as early points along her career pathway. She tells how she responded to an ad, in a newspaper, for her first job as a Girl Friday.  The experiences, as she worked her way through university, gave her the skills and confidence to see the job opportunity, take a chance and then apply herself beyond measure.  The successful results of this attitude resonate in all work worlds.

Reading Response #3 – “Young lady, stop ruining your book”

Reading, reading, reading….. I’m turning the corners of pages to mark content I want to reread or quotes I want to include. My high school English teacher would cringe watching me happily ruin the appearance of this book.  Almost every page is provoking my thinking and inspiring me.  No questions now on book choice.

Reading Response #4 – Quotes & Notes

Stewart’s main message is that women have the talents, skills and attitudes that are best suited for the work world of today. She provides practical strategies along with experiences, observations and visionary statements.

I challenge myself to select four quotes to share.  It’s difficult to narrow down all of those dog-eared pages.

Personal Development – “If you never fail it means you are never trying anything new.  Success means you’ve made more right decisions than wrong ones, but you can’t let failure define you.” (p61)

“The idea of balance doesn’t reflect how the world works, or how we truly spend our time.  It’s not about achieving balance, it’s about flow.” (p130)

Family – “Life’s great hat trick-love, kids and career”…”What has to change is the question.  It’s not “How do you do it all,” but “How will we do it all.”  ….”The work-life juggle isn’t a woman’s issue, it’s a family issue-no matter the makeup of that family.  No player scores a hat trick alone; it has to be a team effort. (p102,115,117)

Leadership – “To me, that’s how we need to lead today: being there at the top to clearly express the aims, set goals and expectations, ensure people have what they need to work and then get out of the way so they can get the job done.” (p95)

“The more you act like a leader, the more you learn to be one.  And the more you will be seen as one.  Like strengthening a muscle, it just takes practice.” (p99)

Workplace – “What matters to modern employees is to feel that they’re making a meaningful contribution, that they have purpose and a stake in the work they do, and a certain amount of autonomy in how it gets done.” (p151)  The meeting table isn’t a place to go it alone, but a place where you anchor yourself as part of a team. (p77)

Reading Response #5 – “Dig in your heels & stand tall”

Book finished. Mind full. Wondering.

If you tweet @kirstinestewart late on a Friday night, will she respond?

She does, not once but twice.  She even makes a joke.

I look for a specific quote and find it on page 172. “But today, when it’s not about power but about building connections with employees and the customers you serve, it’s the smartest way to operate.”

Kirstine Stewart is that smart operator.  She talks the talk, walks the walk.

(And “yes”, it was the Ag Museum in Milton!)

-Joan C.

Ag Hall of Fame – Where are all the Women At?

Laura-Rose

The OAC describes Laura Rose as “instrumental” in modernizing dairy. Photo source: Ontario Agricultural College

Today, the Canadian Agricultural Hall of Fame inducted five deserving men into their ranks. Among them, a man known as the “father of 4-H” in Canada, the late E. Ward Jones. Though 4-H started over 100 years ago as a Boys club, it quickly morphed into the Boys and Girls Clubs and today, Canadian 4-H membership boasts a slightly higher percentage of female participation over males.

Sadly, this level of equal representation is not yet the norm everywhere in agriculture and the Hall of Fame is no exception. The Mission of the Canadian Agricultural Hall of Fame is to “honour and celebrate Canadians for outstanding contributions to the Agriculture and Food Industry and to publicize the importance of their achievements to Canada.” Since its inception in 1960, no more than four women have been inducted:

All four have made formidable contributions to agriculture in the areas of animal breeding, journalism and home economics. One cannot help but wonder though why there aren’t more women’s portraits hanging on the gallery walls?

Just last year, the Ontario Agricultural College celebrated 140 years with a campaign called “140 Faces of OAC“. I distinctly recall many other women featured in this campaign who had made incredible and fascinating contributions to agriculture. Laura Rose, an expert “butter maker”, pioneer in modernizing dairy and the namesake for the Women’s Institute’s Rose program. Sarah Potter, who was not only an instructor but modelled over 900 fruits and vegetables from wax to be used as teaching aids (that in itself deserves recognition in my opinion).  Closer to my current home, there’s Susannah Isabella Steckle, who planted the first commercial orchard in Waterloo, after being the first female agriculture graduate from the OAC.

Where are these women among the Hall of Fame inductees?

We cannot fault the Hall of Fame alone. Their role is to select from the nominations received and nominations come from the industry. Two of the above women were nominated by the Federated Women’s Institutes of Ontario, but the responsibility should not rest solely with them. All agricultural associations and corporations should be stepping up to recognize the women who have made notable impacts on agriculture, lest they be forgotten.