Marketing to Ag Women Trails Growth of Women in Leading Agriculture Roles

by Jeff Walter
October 21, 2020

A third of all farm operators in the U.S. are women. It is time for brands to explore developing a communication strategy that engages the female audience.

When picturing a farmer, people often conjure up images of an older white man, wearing bib overalls and a straw hat. The reality is anything but that stereotypical picture.

In fact, the Census of Agriculture, conducted every five years, reveals a starkly different makeup of American farmers. In 2017, 500,000 more women were principal operators of farms than in 2012. That is a third of all farm principal operators in the United States. And over 250,000 more women are farm operators than in 2012.

If you look through ag marketing materials or an ag trade publication, a third of the ads directed to farmers do not reflect this female audience. But marketing to women in a conventionally male-dominated industry, like agriculture, is not as simple as just putting a woman in an ad.

Women marketers in male-dominated industries can offer a unique and insightful perspective on why it is important to – and how to – effectively engage other women in male-dominated industries. Presley Parish, marketing manager for CNH Industrial Reman, is one of those women. Her organization straddles two business categories that are traditionally seen as male-dominated: agriculture and manufacturing.  In her current role, Parish leads a fully integrated marketing team in developing, implementing, and executing marketing plans to promote her organization’s line of remanufactured parts. Prior to that, she worked in another male-dominated industry—automotive.

We recently met with Parish to learn about her experience being a woman in a male-dominated industry and obtain her insights on marketing to women in ag.  

“What’s unique about being a woman in [this job] is the mere fact that you are existing in the micro society of an ag and construction equipment manufacturing plant, which really doesn’t organically have a role that is created for you,” Parish said. “Sometimes there is this misconception that women like pretty things, sparkly things, and they want to wear a suit and do all of these very stereotypical women-based roles. That’s not always true. The reality is that [this industry is] loud. It gets dirty here, and that’s why some women are drawn to it.”

The No. 1 problem Parish sees with women working in male-dominated industries? Getting the male-dominated industry to have confidence in women. That can only be achieved, though, with women having confidence in themselves.

“You spend a lot of time researching the industry, researching your product,” Parish explained when asked how to counter the confidence challenges. “Some people hesitate and may believe that a woman does not really understand how an engine works, so they’ll pose their questions to one of the male engineers. That would be the number one issue we deal with – getting that confidence in ourselves – and then creating that confidence in others – that we do fully understand our industry.”

Parish uses the confidence in her experience and knowledge in her industry, and relays that it is important for ag brands to market to women when it makes sense for their brand. “Farming is not a one-man show. It is undoubtedly run by an entire family. I think the amount of influence that women have on farm related decisions is definitely undervalued and we need to recognize them as decision-makers.”

To enhance diversity and inclusion of women farmers in agrimarketing, the first step, according to Parish, is to recognize, that women are there, making decisions. “I would love to have conversations with other marketing teams on how many create personas for a woman running the show.”

With women now making up one-third of U.S principal operators, it is time for agrimarketers to take notice and identify if their brand objectives could be more efficiently met with a communications strategy that includes these women principals, as a core customer to drive long-term success.  

If your brand is seeking to explore the untapped market of women in agriculture, the team at Rhea + Kaiser can help guide the way.

Jeff Walter
About the Author – Jeff Walter

President/Chief Integration Officer. Jeff combines 20 years of client service experience with his deep knowledge and passion for agriculture, which stems from growing up on a corn and soybean farm in northern Illinois. He is a quick study of the brand, the customers and competitors, knows the right questions to ask, and with his oversight on planning and analytics, pushes the team to category-defining strategies and results-driven plans.


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