Agrilyst CEO Allison Kopf has something to say.
After several years in agriculture, she’s seen the impact that gender discrimination can have on women in the industry, leaving them feeling overlooked, marginalized and left out, particularly when it comes to conference participation. Two years ago she spoke at the Women in Agribusiness Summit, and noticed that, although agriculture is full of women, the “face” of the industry, at least in terms of event panels and conference speakers, is dominated by men.
That’s why she posted an open google doc titled “Inspirational Women in Ag” on LinkedIn recently, starting with the names of 75 women in the industry that she admires.
It took off.
At last count, the list now numbers 300+ plus names, added by others, and counting. The effort caught the attention of AgFunderNews, which wrote a story about Kopf’s list and the larger effort to raise the profile of women in the industry.
“I think there’s a networking problem. In some industries, it makes sense to blame a pipeline problem. In this industry, it’s primarily a networking problem,” explained Kopf.
Kopf’s list is challenging those in a position to set the program for industry events to reach outside of the people they already know. But why does gender representation and diversity in general matter at panels and conferences? According to Kopf, agriculture is a field where such events hold added significance.
“In this industry, conferences and panels matter a huge amount. In ag, conferences are often one of the few times that farmers are getting off the field and It’s a way for technology companies to get in front of them. It’s a really good opportunity for folks to meet each other and shrink sales cycles, which in this industry is important because of things like slower adoption cycles and field trials,” she said.
As an investor in Agrilyst, it’s great to see entrepreneurs like Allison step up and take a leadership role in the industry. The same goes for Melissa Brandao, CEO of HerdDogg, another iSelect portfolio company; Connie Bowen, director of operations at iSelect partner The Yield Lab; and Renée Vassilos, an agricultural economist who is presenting at Davos on the Delta 2018, who were all featured in the story.
Now that we’re talking about this issue, what’s the next step?
Why don’t we get together and brainstorm? All of the women mentioned above, and more, will be at Davos on the Delta 2018 next month in Memphis, discussing the latest trends in agtech and agriculture innovation, May 15-17. The list of attendees includes Kellee James, CEO of Mercaris; Pam Marrone, CEO of Marrone Bio Innovations; Beth Handrigan, CEO Lean Media; Kristine Swan from Monsanto; Jayma Appleby and Linda Kull from the Illinois Soybean Association; Elizabeth Hurst from Dirt to Dinner; Rebecca Kaufman and Margaret Oldham from AgLaunch; Liz Bair and Tara Lexvold from Compeer Financial; to name a few.