If you know much about me you know for almost 2 years I worked in agricultural sales. One year working for a bull stud and part of a year working for a nutrition company. After that almost 2 years I knew my heart was at the farm and I decided to take the leap and come home. What I don’t often say is how hard and grueling those 2 years were. Although the companies were great the jobs just were not for me. I am not cut out for sales and I truly do not miss the jobs.
The inspiration for this blog post came from a comment thread from a group focused around women in agriculture. One women posted a comment about how a young woman and salesperson rode with her husband in the combine for a long round to discuss some business. For those of you that don’t know, this is not an uncommon practice. In the fall farmers are spending a lot of time out in the fields and in their equipment. This consequently is the best place to do business, to check on how harvest is going, and crop yields are looking. What disturbed me the most about this thread is how the original poster and many other women in agriculture continued to bash this young woman for being unprofessional, disrespectful and sometimes even worse.
As a woman who was that girl, I was appalled and it really bothered me. My husband just simply said, “Why do you let it bother you?” After some thought, it bothered me so much because I would never want my daughter to be talked about like that. She was simply doing her job. Kate from Uptown Farms wrote a wonderful post to women in agricultural sales and I highly encourage you to read it. My friend Brandy wrote a very honest post about the topic as well.
I will say the majority of my former customers were great and that is the one part of my job I miss the most. Getting to catch up with them and hear the interesting things they have to share. However, it was not all sunshine and roses. I will never forget a customer who was known as a very nice man in the community. Don’t get me wrong, he was very polite and cordial. But he never bought a damn thing from me and he always talked about his family to me and never the farm. One day, I brought out a male sales person with me and after 6 months of not buying a thing he bought a whole boat load because I had Matt with me. Wow, talk about sobering. Even today, when my dad and I run into him he ignores me and asks my dad all of the questions. It’s great when my dad says, “Well, you’ll have to ask Ashley that. She’s the person in charge of the cows.”
When I read the Facebook post I was so sad to see so many women bashing this young lady. From my above example we definitely don’t lack any adversity as it is. Add on top of it having to worry about upsetting a spouse’s wife when you had no idea she could possibly be upset. As a farm wife this is the way I see it. If this is a hard line for you in your relationship then you need to talk about it with your spouse. You two need to agree on what you do in these situations. Do you want to be involved with discussions with all sales representatives male or female? Tell your husband. If your husband respects you he won’t have a problem telling a new sales person he would like to set up a meeting where the 3 of you can meet and discuss what they can possibly offer your farm because he doesn’t make those decisions without you.
If having a sales woman ride in a confined space is an issue for you. Again, tell your husband. I don’t know of a respectful spouse who would be upset. I also don’t know of a sales person with a strong moral compass that would argue with a farmer saying, “No I am uncomfortable with that, let’s set up a meeting next week to discuss this.” If your husband is worried about being alone with a female sales person, that’s ok. It is fine for him to say that he only lets his wife and kids ride along with him. I would have totally respected that response. First and foremost, I think you need to trust your spouse to do the right thing. Rather than blaming the sales woman and tearing her down, you need to have an adult discussion with your spouse. Maybe he simply did not know how much it bothers you.
I admit, I am stubborn. Maybe it is my passionate, bull headed and fighting manner that makes me believe women should be able to do the same job as men in almost the same manner. Keep in mind, I am not thinking anything ridiculous or dangerous should be done. But it frustrates me to think that just because of our gender we shouldn’t be allowed to ride in equipment with men to discuss business. Does that mean I shouldn’t have been allowed to visit in a barn office with male customers just because I am a female? I really don’t think it should. If everyone can function in a professional manner I really don’t see a problem. I certainly don’t think women should be tearing other women down because of it.
Although we have made a lot of progress through the years we still have a long way to go. Why is it men tend to look to each other for advice and mentorship while women often feel in competition with other women? As women we have a lot of the same struggles. Why can we not support each other? Why is it we still feel this need to be petty rather than mature and support each other. I catch myself doing it sometimes, I won’t lie. I get jealous of what another woman has, but you know what? I check myself, make myself step back and I try to be the bigger person. I think this discussion is a great learning experience for us all. We all need to step back from our prejudices and remember we are probably more similar than we can see.