I've read a couple of great blog posts recently about what it means to be a woman in agriculture, which I think most of us know can have its challenges. Agriculture is, no doubt, still very much a man's world. I've also seen the #FarmLikeAGirl hashtag, and in many ways, much of this discussion ties into a recent Super Bowl commercial that talked about women's self esteem in the context of what it means to "throw like a girl" to different age groups of women and girls.
I am equal parts girly and not girly - and proud of both.
I love wearing dresses and pretty shoes.
I love shopping, reading romance novels, and watching so-called chick flicks.
I wear makeup, not because I feel I have to but because I like the way I look in it, and I want to look attractive.
I live in a house with two males; well, three if you count our dog, so anytime I can have some "girl time", I go for it.
But I also love watching Minnesota Vikings football and University of Minnesota basketball with the boys at home - and I play fantasy football.
I don't think twice about waltzing around my little town on a Saturday morning, wearing leggings, a cozy fleece sweatshirt and zero makeup.
I love to work up a good sweat while running or working out. (Although I will also #ThrowLikeAGirl if I play catch with my son - and that's just fine with me.)
And suit me up in big, completely unflattering Tyvek overalls and show me the entrance to a turkey barn any day - I love to get close to the animals.
I have always worked in male-dominated environments.
I was a journalism major in college, where I had more male friends than female, and my first job after graduation was as the editor of a small weekly newspaper just south of Minneapolis. By my own admission, I was a 24 year old woman who looked about 16, covering city government and school board meetings, mostly led by men in their 40s and 50s.
When I got tired of the low pay and high volume of hours of that job (which, on the flip side, gave me mega-amounts of really great experience), I found the job that has become my career over the past 20 years - communications director for the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association.
When I started, I'd attend committee and other meetings and often would be the only female in the room. And to be honest, it's not that much different today. However, during my time with Minnesota Turkey, we welcomed our first female president 10+ years ago, we moved away from having a separate "ladies program" at our annual conference, and we've got two women on our board of directors who provide their own unique perspectives on any number of issues. Plus, four out of the five staff members of our organization are women.
I've heard an occasional comment over the years about women belonging in the kitchen and all that, but mostly, I have been fully respected for the work I do and don't give my female gender a second thought when I'm working.
I don't really know what this all means, except that I have much respect for all the women out there in agriculture - whether you're farming or working on behalf of the industry like I am. In so many ways, all of us are paving the way for future generations of women who are just as passionate about agriculture as we are. We've made progress - with more to come as we look ahead.