Knowing that women approach business with different priorities can help farm and ranch families maximize their effectiveness in management roles.
This was the theme of the “Making Room for Women Managing Family Business” workshop, presented by Jeanne Bernick, principal and market strategist with KCoe Isom, at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 100th Annual Convention.
“We’re seeing more and more women come back to the farm – and all kinds of family businesses,” said Bernick.
Today, women comprise 31 percent of all U.S. farmers and ranchers, run 14 percent of all U.S. farms and ranches, and own 30 percent of all farmland in the country, said Bernick. Forty-four percent of FFA students are girls.
“Yet women are still less than 10 percent of senior executives at major agribusiness companies. But that’s changing,” she said.
Bernick helps families transition businesses between generations. She has worked with many daughters, nieces, and sisters-in-laws who are returning to the farm and are interested in management roles.
Women want fulfillment in their work.
“Women bring heart to business. They want to do what they’re passionate about,” said Bernick.
Women also want to leave a strong legacy.
“They’re interested in what is going to happen to the family business in the next generation and beyond. ‘How do we make this legacy stick?’ This is what I hear most,” she said.
Having a plan is an effective way to maximize a woman’s success in a leadership role.
“It works well for women in managing a family business when they run from a plan rather than off the cuff,” said Bernick. “Map out a one-year plan, a five-year plan. Once they have a plan, women are incredibly focused. This makes them incredible leaders.”
Women are also more inclined to continue learning on the job, proactively seeking knowledge in books, trainings, online classes and support groups.
Women in leadership roles make great mentors; they’re interested in paying it forward.
“Women supporting other women is really important. They’re really community-based. When we feel like we have a community we can be a part of, we blossom,” she said.
It’s also important to teach women their value.
“I find women tend to see their value in what they do, like raising kids or meal planning. I help them remember they’re also valuable for who they are. Their ideas are valuable.”
While it can be a change for a farm or ranch to have a woman assume a leadership role, there are many advantages to be gained.
Bernick quoted Kevin O’Leary, “Mr. Wonderful” from the Shark Tank TV show: “My most successful business ventures are those with women leaders.”
“There are lots of reasons for this, but the one that sticks out: women can multitask,” said Bernick. “There’s a reason for the old saying, ‘If you want something done give it to a busy mom.'”
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