LAUREL, Miss. — From the farm to the board room, and everywhere in between, women are thriving in all facets of the agriculture industry. As the industry is challenged to produce food more efficiently, sustainably and in increasing volume, female professionals are answering the call across the nation.
To coincide with International Women’s Day, which was on March 8, Sanderson Farms celebrated the women who make up a vital part of its workforce for the remainder of the month by featuring a different female member of its workforce each week on its social media channels, along with a link to a brief employee profile on their website.
“Through this special campaign, we will recognize women who have made invaluable contributions to this company’s success,” said Lampkin Butts, president and chief operating officer of Sanderson Farms. “These leaders are just examples of the many women working behind-the-scenes to keep our company operating at the top of our industry, and I couldn’t be more thankful to have their insight and perspective guiding our company decisions each day.”
In the U.S., more than half of all farming operations had at least one female operator, according to the 2019 Agricultural Resource Management Survey. The same survey found that women were the principal operator, or the operator primarily responsible for the daily operation of the farm, on 31 percent of farms specializing in poultry.
Today, female leadership is not limited to just farming operations in the agriculture industry. According to a 2019 study conducted by the American Farm Bureau, 27 percent of 3,000 female respondents from 49 states identified their occupation as an agriculture-related business, not including farms or ranches. The same study found that 62 percent of female respondents have the opportunity to lead in the agricultural organization where they are involved.
At Sanderson Farms, the prevalence of women in agriculture is no different. Women account for nearly 45 percent of Sanderson Farms employees and nearly 27 percent of the company’s management team, including female directors and division management. Of the new employees hired in fiscal year 2021 at Sanderson Farms, 44 percent were women.
For the nation’s third largest poultry producer, Sanderson Farms’ evident confidence in female leadership begins at the top with the company’s board of directors, the company added. In 2021, the Women’s Forum of New York recognized Sanderson Farms as a Corporate Champion for having over 40 percent of the company’s board seats filled by women.
“Since the very beginning of our company’s history over 75 years ago, women have been a crucial part of our success,” said Joe F. Sanderson Jr., chairman of the board and CEO of Sanderson Farms. “Throughout my career, I have been surrounded by women who have led with intelligence, integrity and courage, and, together, we have led this company through a period of growth that has been unparalleled in our industry.”
For eight consecutive years, the company was also named a Winning ‘W’ Company by an advocacy and education group, 20/20 Women on Boards, for its inclusion of women on its board of directors and in leadership positions. In 2021, the same organization, now known as 50/50 Women on Boards, named Sanderson Farms to its Gender Diversity Index with the index’s highest rating of “companies with gender-balanced boards. Only 7 percent of the companies on the Russel 3000 Index earned this highest rating.
First launched in 2018, Sanderson Farms’ Women in Agriculture series seeks to spotlight hard-working professionals in vital roles across the company. While these women come from different life, educational and career backgrounds, they all bring unique contributions to our company and the industry.
“Just because the agricultural industry is mostly male-dominated, women should not doubt themselves or their abilities,” said Andretta Moore, field employee relations manager for Sanderson Farms and one of the women being featured in the campaign. “Sanderson Farms doesn’t just say there are opportunities for women, they are actively placing women into positions of leadership. Whether on the board of directors or as division managers, I have seen Sanderson Farms take the opportunity to place the most qualified people into positions of authority.”
In addition to Moore, upcoming features in the campaign include Sanderson Farms employees Shaunta McDowell, debone superintendent; Jennifer Katool, product development manager; and Marley Porter, catch and haul manager.