Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM)

Grab agriculture by the STEM 

You've probably seen textbook photos of "serious scientists," those old guys with white beards and even whiter lab coats, or stereotypes of "computer nerds" as young guys hunched in their basements, but what does it really mean to be someone doing Science, Technology, Engineering, or Math...in agriculture...and a woman?

STEM isn't just nerds in lab coats

Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math are often lumped together in the abbreviation STEM. STEM refers to both the jobs that are in those specific fields, and to the skills that are crucial to those fields. Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math are more than just school subjects, more than memorizing the periodic table, or the formula for the circumference of a circle. Scientific or STEM thinking is an approach to understanding, exploring, and engaging with the world - and then having the capacity to change the world by asking thoughtful questions, using logical reasoning, problem solving, and collaboration. STEM jobs and STEM skills are integral to the future and to your future job opportunities. 

Additionally, yesterday's narrow stereotype of the 'geek' in the lab coat is not representative of the many different jobs available in agriculture today that require STEM thinking and teamwork. As more job opportunities arise, the more groups of people are allowed to take part in these opportunities, the reality is that most scientists (and technologists, engineers, and mathematicians) are pretty normal people. 

STEM jobs are growing faster than other occupations 

In 2009, eight of the ten most wanted employees had degrees in the STEM fields: accounting, computer science, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, information science and systems, computer engineering, civil engineering, and economics and finance. Likewise, the ten fastest growing occupations from 2008-2018 are all STEM careers or require STEM skills, according to the US Department of Labor. 

STEM careers are especially rewarding for women, as women with STEM jobs earn 33 percent more than comparable women in non-STEM jobs and the wage gap between men and women is smaller in STEM jobs than in non-STEM jobs, according to the US Department of Commerce. 

STEM skills appear in lots of other jobs

Today, STEM is everywhere. It has been estimated that 65% of today's students will end up in jobs that haven't been invented yet. Additionally, technology is pervasive in almost every aspect of daily life, and as the workplace changes, STEM knowledge and skills grow in importance for a variety of workers (not just scientists and mathematicians). In the modern job market, as we face the benefits and challenges of both globalization and a knowledge-based economy, you can't do one task until you retire; you need to be adaptable, and STEM skills give you the edge to become innovators, educators, researchers, and leaders who can solve the most pressing challenges facing our nation and our world, both today and tomorrow. 

Be the kind of [STEM] you want to be. 

There are a lot of opportunities in STEM for people with an ag background, and even more opportunities in agriculture for people with STEM training. 

Farmers will always play a critical role in the production chain, but they can't do it all themselves. 

We're now in an era of scientific agriculture, where chemistry, ecology, engineering and other disciplines play essential roles. As these fields become increasingly intertwined with food and fuel production, agriculture increases its crucial need for STEM. 

Engineers are needed to improve farm machinery efficiency, scientists are needed to find ways to improve plant yields, nutritional value, and water use efficiency, and technicians are needed to collect and manage all kinds of data. And these are just a few. Even salespeople for fertilizer and pesticide companies need to have secret depths of chemistry knowledge. 

Every single year in the US, 57,900 high-skilled jobs open in the food, agriculture, renewable natural resources, and environmental fields. But only 35,400 new US graduates enter the workforce in ag related fields with bachelor's degrees or higher, according to an employment outlook report released by the USDA National Institute for Food and Agriculture. This leaves 22,500 jobs unfilled annually, and they're even becoming increasingly available in suburban and urban markets. 

Of those 35,400 new graduates, women outnumber men in agriculture, plant pathology, entomology, food science, wildlife biology, and conservation biology, among others. 

Any skill set can be combined with your passion for or background in agriculture. It's easy to think that you have to "leave the farm" if you're not the oldest son who's going to inherit. But what we see in modern and sustainable agriculture (and what I see at Agrible everywhere I turn) is that simply isn't true. People who leave the farm actually take it with them - to forecast weather to help farmers, to write computer programs to help farmers, develop machinery and chemistry and crop varieties to help farmers. 

What does this all mean?

Women are set up for careers in the power industry of the future. And there's more opportunities in agriculture than you might think. Click on the links below to read more about women working in STEM careers, and using their STEM training and skills in agricultural careers, both at Agrible and beyond!

Women in the field

Kyle Brisendine, Grass-based livestock manager with a Bachelor's in Science and Masters in Integrated Resource Management (in progress). 
Ida Simila, fifth generation family farmer and engineer in Finland. 
Rebecca Vasquez, Urban farmer with a Bachelor's degree in Global Resources & the Environment, and Sustainability. 
Joan Jach, geologist, small farmer, small business owner producing local, sustainable fresh flowers and more. 

Women in agricultural science

Sharon Gray, NSF Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Biology at the University of California, Davis. 
Laura Christianson, Research Assistant Professor of Water Quality at the University of Illinois. 

Women communicating STEM and agriculture

Jennifer Shike, Director of Communications and Marketing for the College of ACES.

Women using STEM in agribusiness

Laura Gentry, Illinois Corn Growers Association and Illinois Corn Marketing Board Director of Water Quality Science. 
Kelsey McNamara, Field Advisor at Brandt Consolidated. 
Angie Setzer, "The Goddess of Grain" and Vice President of Grain for Citizens LLC. 

Women at Agrible in STEM

Samantha Horvath, Director of Research and Development at Agrible. 
Jessie Prenger-Bhalerao, Agricultural Engineer at Agrible.
Amy Betzelberger, Plant Biologist / Science Liason at Agrible. 
Joy Barranis, Front-End Web Developer at Agrible. 
Crystal Bailey, Chief Financial Officer at Agrible.