Editor’s Note: The following is an Editorial Comment from the editors of Hoard’s Dairyman.
A major demographic shift has taken place on the nation’s university and technical college campuses. These days, women far outnumber men when it comes to those studying animal agriculture. While that trend also has made its way into the workforce and onto our farms, you would hardly know it if you looked at the center of the ring during a dairy cattle show.
In other professions, there are examples to lift up people who rarely receive an opportunity. In the National Football League (NFL), owners adopted a plan to incentive teams to hire minorities as assistant coaches or personnel executives. If another team later hires one of those staffers as a head coach or general manager, the team making the original hire could receive up to three third round draft picks.
A little closer to home, USDA leaders, under the Obama administration, asked why data is only collected on one person when it comes to completing farm surveys. As a result of those conversations, USDA surveys now ask for information on all parties who make management decisions on the farm. Guess what they found? There are a great many wives and daughters working alongside their husbands and fathers. Those worthy women can now better participate in USDA programs after this simple shift in asking the proper questions.
Now to the showring. An online discussion took place sometime ago among Dairy Girl Network members involving the dearth of women who are chosen to judge shows. While there are a great many talented women working with show cattle, we don’t need all the fingers on our hands to count the number of women judging at national caliber dairy shows this year.
What more can the dairy community do to improve upon this shortcoming? Well, women first need an opportunity. That begins when we provide more experiences for women to judge at county, state, and regional shows. As the late Dave Dickson, the person who holds the record for judging the most shows at World Dairy Expo, once shared with us, “You have to prepare on the small stages before you are ready for the big stage.”
In writing this Editorial Comment, we would like to share that we are doing our part to help in this endeavor, as this marks the 10th straight year that one or more women have served as an official judge in the Hoard’s Dairyman Cow Judging Contest. The next time you are at an exhibitor meeting, think about a talented woman and nominate her for the judge’s ballot. Then, follow through and vote for your nominee.