Recently, I met with 130 female farmers at their Women in Ag annual conference. At the event, you could feel the energy, excitement and camaraderie that exist in a room full of talented women.
My participation in the forum was a continuation of my “Stories of Women’s Lives Tour” in Iowa. It’s a chance for me to meet with female leaders and highlight how women are positively impacting Iowa with their ideas, actions and ingenuity.
So far, I’ve participated in roundtables with Women in Ag, Women Business Owners, Women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), Women in Military, Women in Law and Young Female Professionals, to name just a few groups.
I’ve heard so many incredible stories of women who are making a difference in their homes, businesses, schools and communities. They’re building professional networks, serving as role models, leading initiatives, mentoring and volunteering.
Without question, there is a movement of women occurring across our great state, and this movement is important for Iowa’s economic vitality.
Now, more than ever, Iowa has an opportunity to continue its unparalleled growth by unlocking the potential of all our talents. STEM is a great example. While women comprise 48 percent of the U.S. workforce, just 24 percent are in STEM fields.
That’s why I’m so passionate about educating girls and young women about STEM. In 2014, we created and launched a statewide initiative called Million Women Mentors (MWM)-Iowa. Our goal is to have 5,000 male and female mentors in all 99 counties by 2018.
Another aspect of the “Stories of Women’s Lives Tour” is to coordinate efforts and capture the synergy from outstanding groups like NAWBO, Iowa Women Leading Change, NEXIS and Invest in She. I want to begin connecting the dots, sharing best practices and identifying ways to bring everyone together to strengthen Iowa’s future.
Earlier, I mentioned Iowa Women in Ag’s annual conference. Let me share two stories of dynamic women who are making a difference for female farmers: Nicole Jonas and April Hemmes.
Nicole lives in Boone, Iowa—population 12,629. She serves as Manager of Daily Operations at Red Granite Farm and is one of the 14 percent of women principal farm operators who are making the face of Iowa agriculture more diverse.
She also is the mother of three young children, and her husband works in town. Through an Annie’s Project course in value-added agriculture, Nicole was able to connect with other women who are balancing similar challenges.
April is another outstanding female farm operator. She participated in one of our Women in Ag roundtables and is the principal operator on her family’s Century Farm near Hampton. This year marks her 30th year in farming.
April was voted Midwest Farm Mom of the Year in 2011 and represented Iowa farmers on outreach trips to Brazil, China and Uganda. If that’s not enough to keep her busy, April is serving her 20th year as a Soil & Water Commissioner!
Nicole and April are leaders in their industry and communities. They serve as role models for other women to follow. I have the utmost respect for both ladies as they cut a path for other females in agriculture and life in general.
Each of us has an obligation to recognize and encourage other girls and young women to lead, not be afraid to fail and help one another. Let them know what you do and how you do it. Be a role model and a teacher. Encourage them to join organizations like NAWBO. In addition, identify, support and encourage women to run for public office.
August 26th marked “Women’s Equality Day,” when votes to women officially became part of the U.S. Constitution. Use this important milestone in our nation’s history to consider becoming an elected official.
Think about serving your community on the school board, city council or county commission. Consider being a candidate for statewide office. If we, as women, waited for the perfect chance to run or until we believed our experience was vast enough to serve—we would miss countless opportunities to be elected.
This month, let’s pledge to reach out to three to five other women and offer to help them. They can be daughters, granddaughters, nieces, neighbors or strangers. Ask them questions, listen to these young women and identify how your skills or network can help them succeed.
Together, we WILL make a difference today for the leaders of tomorrow.
Kim Reynolds has served as Lieutenant Governor of Iowa since January 2011. You can follow her on Twitter at @KimReynoldsIA and find her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/KimReynoldsIA.