“We often see 1.7 employees on a ranch, with the woman representing the .7 — she’s giving up 3/4 of her time to the operation, but not on the books as an employees,” Amber Smith from Women in Ranching told American Farmland Trust.
As of 2023, 56 percent of all farms have at least one female decision maker, and women are a staple on many farm’s payroll — nearly 33 percent of all agricultural workers are women. It’s here that many of the numbers stop adding up. Census figures show that the average woman who works full-time across all industries is paid just 85 percent of the typical man’s pay.
The Biden administration wrote, “Over the course of a career, the pay gap can add up to hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost earnings, particularly for women of color, significantly impacting retirement savings and uniquely burdening households led by single mothers.”
National Equal Pay Day, on March 14, serves to represent the number of hours many women must work to achieve the same income as their male counterparts. It’s not just about equal pay, though — net income on farms operated by men are making 151 percent more profit than those principally operated by women. Those among the lowest-paid, generally speaking, are women of color — primarily Black women — who receive less income and government support for their farms when compared to White women.
American Farmland Trust wrote, “Closing the wage gap isn’t just about equity, it is about helping women, children, and families achieve holistic economic security across many sectors.”
That need is palpable. Women-led farms are more likely to face challenges reaching economies of scale and the commodities they often raise commonly receive less structural support from federal farm programs. AFT took a look at the the profitability of female stockholders, determining that a combination of risk aversion, land tenure barriers, internalized sexism, and biased culture within agricultural institutions are contributing to the gender disparity.
Childcare availability is yet another issue at play. “Women are overwhelmingly the caretakers for families, and this responsibility places a heavy burden on them. Adequate childcare for families is critical to the viability of farms — it is, ultimately, an acknowledgment of its value to society and a way to boost job creation and economic growth,” wrote AFT.
A number of organizations, stakeholders, and businesses are taking steps to bridge the gap between understanding where gender disparities exist, why they exist, and developing women leaders in agriculture to help meet the needs of female farmers.