Does agriculture have a problem with diversity and inclusion? Is this something the community is willing to admit and work on? Or will some in the industry try to brush this off as well?
In the weeks after I first shared my experiences challenging diversity and inclusion in the workplace, I’ve received an overwhelming amount of feedback. I’m both thankful for the support and taken aback by the number of testimonies of discrimination that have been shared.
Discrimination and lack of inclusivity is something I’ve quietly experienced – admittedly to a much smaller degree than others – and have long been aware of, but to hear how so many others have been impacted negatively by an agriculture community I’m so passionate about is heartbreaking.
I’ve been told, mostly in confidence for fear of retribution or difficulty in sharing, stories of discrimination based on religion, gender, sexual orientation, age, background, and experience from across the agriculture spectrum.
If the cultural headlines of 2020 taught us nothing else, it’s that we must have deeper conversations about the importance of diversity and inclusion in our society. And agriculture is not immune to this need.
Diversity and Inclusion in Ag can be addressed
Aside from a few private messages from former colleagues in support of my earlier statements or others denying and dismissing my claims, there hasn’t been any direct change as a result of sharing my experiences. I’m far from an expert on the topic and I’m not sure any one person has the perfect solution. However, there are examples of how DNI can be addressed in agriculture.
Many major companies in agriculture have taken steps to implement diversity and inclusion policies, often sharing these policies on their websites. Cargill, John Deere, Zoetis, Bayer, and Elanco being a few examples.
We know that inclusion requires more than just words, but also action to ensure changes are made. As these policies are introduced, it will be important to see how they result in measurable moves toward better inclusion in the community.
Can we have more agricultural businesses be part of these discussions despite the risk of disagreement by some of their customers?
In 2021, let’s resolve to continue working to make these conversations more prominent to help our community realize its importance and how we all have a role in working toward improvements.
But we shouldn’t be speaking for others, necessarily. Let’s make more time to gain a better understanding of others’ experiences by listening. And let’s help to elevate the stories of those who are speaking up to better learn what others have to say.
If we care enough about our agriculture community and our agriculture organizations, we’ll continue working toward a better, stronger, more inclusive future for us all.