Women (i.e. people that identify with womanhood) are still underrepresented in the agricultural sciences. Our platform intends to build a supportive community for empowering and inspiring women by sharing women’s stories/experiences in the ag sciences, and to educate the general public about the importance of agricultural sciences and women representation in this field.
Why do we need to feature these women?
1. First of all, when you do a quick google search about women in science, all the websites focus on STEM fields. STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. Right now, agriculture is seen as something utterly different from STEM. Agriculture would not exist without using science, technology, engineering, and math. The problem with this is that many websites about women in science or women in STEM often leave out women who perform roles within the STEM disciplines in agriculture. Also, agricultural sciences are an inter- and multidisciplinary field, where many disciplines collaborate in addition to STEM disciplines, including social sciences, communications, economics, and others.
2. Secondly, agriculture as a career option is highly stigmatized. Many people, when they think about agriculture, they think about farmers. While farming is a great profession, it is not the only option to pursue when it comes to working in agriculture. There are many career options but we can summarize them in five highly generalized types:
- Agricultural communications: How else would you find out about a product or important news in agriculture, if it weren't for our communicators?
- Agricultural economics: Agriculture, as well as other job fields, runs on making wise decisions with the intention of saving money. We need people that can help in that decision to keep working, keep people employed, and most importantly, feed the world.
- Agricultural education: In a time of social and economic inequalities and grave misinformation, having prepared and qualified educators are important for the future of agriculture and of humankind. This area ranges from all education levels to large agricultural organizations.
- Social sciences: Problems in agriculture can often be tied around societal problems. We need social scientists to study “why?” and “how come?” of people’s needs. This way, the science done is relevant and impactful to human beings.
- All those who engage in STEM disciplines: plant pathology, entomology, horticulture, soil science, food science, agricultural engineering and animal science fall in this category. Whether it is studying economically important plants and animals, developing new technology, understanding the ever-changing climate and environment that surrounds us and how that impacts the organisms we are interested in or ensuring the safety of the food we consume. All of these involve arduous research to ensure our well-being as well as the environment.
3. There are not enough women in agriculture. Many roles can influence this reality but, regardless, it is our job to change it. We need to acknowledge the ones who are here now and thriving, but we have to increase our numbers too.
How will these women be recognized?
The first ongoing project is a website, that was launched in March, where there is access to interviews about women in different agricultural fields and original content that focuses on important topics ranging from professional development to personal stories and even, lifestyle tips.
In order to increase visibility, break the stigma, and increase representation and diversity, a website is not the only way to do it. It is only a start. However, for this initiative to have an impact, all of us can have a role in supporting this cause whether it is following our website and social media accounts, sharing our content or expressing interest in collaborating with the initiative.
Marlia's interest in agriculture dates back to high school when she started her own garden. Her fascination and passion for agriculture motivated her to pursue a bachelor's degree in Crop protection at the University of Puerto Rico. Currently, she is a plant pathology master's student at The Ohio State University conducting research on root-knot nematode diversity, biocontrol and yield loss on tomatoes. Within the vast realm of agriculture, she has gained a special interest in outreach and sustainability and plans to gain experience in ag education and communication.
Andrea’s passion for agriculture was reinforced when she noticed the lack of respect and appreciation of the food and crop production in Puerto Rico. Andrea’s aspirations led to complete a Bachelors in Agricultural Science with a major in Crop Protection and start a master’s in Plant Pathology at Cornell University. Her research program is focused on the evaluation of foliar diseases in New York Malting Barley lines, pathogen population ecology, and biology coupled with extension appointments. She has been involved in diversity working groups, recruitments, and different initiatives to increase the unrepresented minorities and women in the agricultural sciences. Andrea will continue to expand her knowledge and interests to educate non-scientist communities by this platform and outreach dynamics around Upstate New York.
Ana María Vázquez-Catoni
Ana María is currently a graduate research fellow at the Ohio State University pursuing a Masters in Plant Pathology. Under the guidance of Dr. Soledad Benitez, Ana María works on characterizing the bacterial microbiome of tomato seedlings grown in chicken grazed soils to understand the impact of these soils in endophyte diversity. Before joining the Plant Pathology graduate program, she obtained a double bachelor's degree focused in Biology and Industrial Microbiology from the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez. Ana María developed her interest in science communication by being involved in student organizations dedicated to educating about the environment and sustainable living. She is an outreach enthusiast and hopes to further collaborate with organizations that promote diversity, inclusion, and empowerment of underrepresented minorities in STEM fields.
Noelymar is a Soils and Biogeochemistry Ph.D. student at UC Davis. She did her Master’s in Environment and Natural Resources at the Ohio State University, where she studied soil organic matter dynamics in long-term managed soils. Her interest in agriculture and soils strengthened during her undergraduate studies at the University of Puerto Rico- Mayaguez, where she majored in Agronomy. Noely is enthusiastic about soil sciences, sustainable agriculture and agroecology education, research and outreach. Her goals include establishing multidisciplinary collaborations with scientists and stakeholders and developing strong research and outreach skills to work towards improving sustainable agriculture and soil quality in Puerto Rico and other agroecosystems that are highly susceptible to climate change effects. She's also committed to promoting diversity and inclusion and motivating other underrepresented students to strive for higher education and enterprenourship.