Perceptions of the Underrepresentation of Women in Agriculture and Motives for Movement into the Industry


In the U.S., agriculture has historically been a male-dominated industry. Women have been underrepresented in agriculture even as they have played important roles on and off the farm. In the last 25 years, however, women have been moving into agriculture and increasing their visibility in positions on and off the farm even in light of structural changes to agriculture and environmental concerns. Learning motives for moves into the industry can help supply information about the changing roles of women in agriculture and help determine whether agricultural trends follow other occupational trends. Giving a voice to women that have been underrepresented can help them continue to alter the roles expected of them and policies can be developed to support them. An in-depth literature review and 16 in-depth interviews were conducted in the Midwest region of the United States. Twelve interviewees had roles on the farm, 7 women had roles off the farm, and 3 women had roles on and off the farm. It was found that women have been underrepresented for a number of reasons including the social construction of gender, patriarchal households, documentation issues, cultural and familial changes. Regardless, women are changing the roles expected of them and opportunities are increasing, especially in the sustainable agriculture, locavore and local food movement. Agriculture does not follow the occupational trends of women moving into male-dominated industries and women have multiple reasons for moving into the industry. Technical and social barriers women experience when they enter agriculture have been overcome with networking

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