I’ve been in the middle of an internal debate.
Perhaps you would like to join in.
Here’s the background:
Back in November, I attended the United Dairyman of Idaho convention. When I got the registration packet, there was the usual list of business meetings and seminars. And then there was “Ladies Craft Activity” and “Ladies Tour of the Statehouse.”
I have to admit, my first reaction when I see the “ladies activities” on the registration sheets every year is a slap on the forehead. Really? Does this mean I’m not welcome at the business meetings? Are we so stuck in the dark ages around here that we have segregated meetings for the men?
The reality is, I’ve attended the ladies sessions and had a good time. In fact, I met some very nice people.
This year, something was different.
Every year at the UDI conference, those ladies sessions are packed.
For a while I thought I would just attend those events and not go to the business meetings. Maybe I’d hit the spa at the hotel, do some shopping and get my hair done.
I could be a “lady who lunches.”
That sounded entirely boring to me.
So then, I decided I’d go and then interview the other attendees of the ladies sessions and find out why they’d rather be there instead of the business meetings. It would be a great piece for one of my blogs, I thought.
Off I went to Boise, with my husband in tow, feeling like I had a mission.
When I got to the convention center and saw the sign pointing the way to the “Ladies Craft Session,” I felt sick to my stomach. I couldn’t do it.
I hadn’t even been at the convention 20 minutes, and my plan was thrown out the window.
I wanted to know what was going on in the industry that supports my family and me. I just couldn’t bring myself to merely attend the “Ladies Craft Session.”
A few hours later, when I walked past the room where the ladies were gathered, it was again packed. Packed with women I hadn’t seen at any other time during the day.
Look, there’s nothing wrong with that session. For me, I felt if I attended that session, I’d be setting the women’s movement back 40 years. But then, I started second guessing myself. Wasn’t the women’s movement about having choices? Weren’t the bras burned so that I could choose if I wanted to go to the business meetings or the craft session? Don’t we all have that right instead of the expectation now?
I voiced my complaint to some of the UDI staff members, all women. They took a breath and nodded. “We know, but they’re packed. What else should we do?”
Then I connected with Rebecca Lampman. She’s a Bruneau, Idaho-based dairy producer who is doing some research on women in the industry. Turns out, she was questioning a few things too.
The study she’s doing looks at the number of women in the state of Idaho on the various policy and promotions boards for our industry. More specifically; the lack thereof.
“This research has been very interesting to me because in addition to being a mother and full-time student, I am also a dairywoman. I have attended the annual UDI meeting for years and have noticed that there aren’t many women on the board, and I have always wondered why, Lampman said. “I am hoping that this research will empower interested dairy women to serve in UDI; that the results of this research will give both the organization and women tools to increase the numbers of women serving on the board.”
Lampman asked me to take part of a survey she was doing about women in the industry.
“I’m not involved in the day-to-day management of the dairy,” I told her.
“Don’t downplay the important role you play in the business,” she told me.
And she was right. While it’s true I don’t have a say in the operation, I am important here. Sometimes I forget that.
Not only do I help raise and educate what will hopefully be the next generation of producers here, I make sure my husband is ready to tackle the day.
I’m also often the public face of this dairy. I’m the one in the community on the Chamber of Commerce, active in 4-H and at the school. Sometimes, the only connection our community has to our dairy is, well, me.
So I do play an important role, even though I sometimes sell myself short.
I wonder if other women in the industry do the same? And that’s been my debate. Do I hold back because that is my choice or because somewhere inside, I believe I don’t deserve the voice?
As women, we have a different perspective on the management of the dairy and the industry. We, collectively, need to make sure that voice is heard.
For my New Year’s Resolution 2014, I’m going to find ways to be more involved as a leader not only in the dairy industry, but in other issues and causes important to me.
I’ll challenge you to do the same, and whenever possible I will post resources and ideas of how to get that job done.
Let me know how it goes for you.