The role of women in Agtech and agri-food innovation

The Agtech ecosystem, characterized by disruptive agri-food innovation, stands as the solution to the various challenges and problems faced by the agriculture and food sector, such as global warming and the need to produce more healthy food every day with less land and less water. This is why it is expected to be the most important technology by 2050.

However, beyond the above, players in the Agtech sector must review their industry gender dynamics and detect biases in this regard in the search for an inclusive ecosystem with real equity, where talent prevails above all else. 

In the Agtech industry, there are few Female CEOs and CTOs.

Female participation – both in the market and in society – has evolved significantly throughout history. However, some situations show that the gender gap is still significant. For example, in 2019, women held only 28% of managerial positions globally, and in 2020 only 18% of companies had a female executive director, according to figures compiled by the United Nations

Gender dynamics in the Agtech industry are not exempt from this reality. Although the International Labor Organization estimates that women from rural areas account for 41% of the global agricultural workforce, few hold key roles in crop management, and their presence in Agtech managerial positions is even smaller. 

For example, Research by the Inter-American Development Bank indicates that in the mapping of Agtech ventures in Latin America, only 11% of entrepreneurial teams (out of 300) have female co-founders. 

Similarly, the Money Where Our Mouths Are report notes that female startup founders in the industry face more skepticism, questioning, and difficulties in general from investors than men do.

Female CEOs and CTOs in the Agtech sector can improve results

Harvard Business Review article points out that women control about $ 20 billion in annual consumer spending globally. In this regard, the study indicates that purchasing decisions are made in 91% of households, and of course, food is one of the items to consider.

In this sense, having women in high-level positions in the Agtech industry can help companies avoid ignoring or underestimating the power of the female consumer and improve products, services, and -even- marketing processes and narratives conception. 

We should also keep in mind that the entire agricultural and food ecosystem is facing fundamental changes that are reshaping the future of food to respond to consumer preferences, which should undoubtedly be the drivers of agri-food innovation.

Considering the role played by women in shopping, it would not be surprising that women highly drive the growing concern for healthy, safe, and sustainable food environments.

The corporate benefits of involving women at the decision-making table

Women are essential elements for corporate environments, as they tend to be stronger when it comes to soft skills such as empathy. In addition to professional training, the above is a competitive factor applying to both men and women.

It is about recognizing the significant role they could play in the managerial positions of companies in the sector and highlighting how they could complement each other with their male counterparts. 

During the fourth edition of the Global BioAg Linkages “Women in Agriculture” seriesPam Marrone – founder of Marrone Bio Innovations and partner and chair of the BioAg Primary Innovations Executive Board, noted that: 

We, women leaders in agriculture, do not see ourselves as a separate group from men leaders; however, we wish to reduce the distinction and classification. Our goal is to get to the point where we only recognize leaders as leaders, not as female or male leaders. Good leaders are good leaders, and bad leaders are bad leaders; they cannot be classified by gender. “

Involving men is essential to solving the gender gap 

According to a KK&P study, men have “untapped power” to reduce the gender gap affecting female agri-food technology female entrepreneurs. By making them aware of the problem, they can act as opinion leaders on this issue and promote female talent and support for women-developed ventures. 

It should be noted that, according to the same study, 75% of agri-food technology female entrepreneurs have experienced a negative gender bias, and only 24% consider that men in the sector are making efforts to improve the situation. 

There is an increasing presence of women in managerial positions in the Agtech sector. 

In addition to Pam Marrone, many other women are paving the way for a female presence in the Agtech sector.

A clear example of the above is Kellye Eversole, chair of Eversole Associates and executive director of the International Wheat Genome Sequencing Consortium, who, on the challenges she has overcome as an Agtech entrepreneur, said: 

I had some really tough first years in my consulting business as I saw the good guys network perform extremely well and lost contracts with less qualified candidates simply because of the perception that only a man could have discussions with the industry or with government officials. However, over time, things have improved a bit, although women are still not well represented in leadership positions in industry, government, or academia.”

Like Kellye, there are currently many other women leaders in the Agtech industry who are an example for those who aim to consolidate in the sector:

  • Christine Su, CEO, and founder of PastureMap.
  • Miku Jha, CEO, and founder of AgShift.
  • Sarah Nolet, CEO, and founder of AgThentic.
  • Virginia Emery, CEO, and founder of BetaHatch.

Women currently in senior management in Agtech (startups in Latam)

Several women of admirable talent also work in the region, such as Argentine women Mariana Stegagnini -chair at the CEDEF Foundation- and Tatiana Malvasio, Kilimo’s director of operations. 

For Malvasio, “the Agtech sector has a great opportunity to build companies with equality perspectives (gender, disability, etc.) since most of the skills required for this type of business are not formed informal education.”

And one of the most recent examples is that of Agustina Fabbiothe new CEO of PolyNatural.

The appointment of Fabbio as CEO of PolyNatural increases the network of women currently in management positions at startups Agtech in Latam, helping to drive paradigm shift and consolidate with a perspective on gender equality and female leadership.

 

It is gratifying to see the growing empowerment of women in the Agtech sector and how important companies are opening their doors to them. It is expected to continue to increase, and they continue to lead processes and create products or intellectual property.

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