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Women Changing the Face of Agriculture Planning Committee's Perspective
In the spring of 2010, a group of five Illinois women in agriculture planned the first Women Changing the Face of Agriculture (WCFA) event, bringing information and insight about agriculture to high school and college women. Today, the 50-woman strong WCFA Planning Committee continues to create an annual event designed to provide career exploration, education and leadership development opportunities for female high school and college students.
The WCFA Planning Committee members have followed non-traditional career paths in an industry that is statistically male-dominated. Now, Jennifer Waters, program advisor for the Facilitating Coordination in Agricultural Education organization in Illinois, and her fellow WCFA Planning Committee members lead by example and share their past and their vision for future opportunities with students who will create profitable businesses and vigorous rural communities. They also share recommendations with the students, serve as role models and function as future networking contacts.
“We all want to develop a strong network to encourage one another in careers that tend to be male dominated,” the Planning Committee members say. “We want to serve as role models for the young women so they see the vast opportunities that are available in agriculture and come to understand the value in networking with those of us in the industry and one another.”
Most of the student participants in the WCFA event are members of FFA, 4-H, Girl Scouts of America or school Science Clubs. The event has grown from 125 student participants and chaperones in 2010 to 838 in 2015; more than 2,800 total participants have attended over the past six years.
That first event was attended by 100 professional women from 23 companies, government agencies and commodity organizations; today the event attracts 300 women from over 75 companies, agricultural organizations, universities and community colleges and government agencies. Further building their community, college students and past attendees now serve as volunteer mentors, guides and assistants to the high school participants.
“We all believe in paying it forward,” the WCFA Planning Committee says. “We see opportunity for all who have a strong work ethic and desire to provide for the well-being of future generations.”
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