Why E.L.L.E Was Developed
Learn More, Achieve More
A program developed for women in agri-food by women in agri-food.
Women are actively involved at an ever-increasing rate within agriculture and agri-food across Canada taking on leadership, ownership, management, and supportive roles on farms and in agri-food businesses. They play significant roles in primary agriculture production, community sustainable agriculture, horticulture, direct farm marketing, niche market development, agritourism, equine and value added and processing to an existing farm business – as partners or leaders of the operations.
Their roles range from managing finances for their farm and initiating succession planning to being key enablers of farm diversification and increased financial profitability of the operation, to being sole owners of the businesses. Analytics of AME’s social media accounts indicate that women are the highest engagers in content and clicks.
Prior project research, including extensive interviews with many women involved in agriculture and agri-food, revealed that a need exists for a leadership/management training cohort setting. There is a desire to increase knowledge and strengthen management and leadership skills, in addition to accessing networking opportunities tailored to women where they can discuss challenges and share experiences. Whether a start-up, established or scale up, a business has a much stronger chance of success when the entrepreneur’s skill sets are strong. These skill sets are learned from exposure to leadership, business management and technical/professional concepts. When networks are established, women learn from one another and share experiences in a peer-to-peer environment. They also capture opportunities to work together, share knowledge and access shared resources.
This prior project research also identified a number of barriers still exist for women agriculture and agri-food entrepreneurs to run and grow their businesses. These include access to financing, insufficient management skill sets, work schedules, finances, childcare, extended family responsibilities and for some gender bias. Additional barriers such as cost, travel, distance, and ability to get away from their business make it difficult to pursue training courses and participate in skill building or networking events.
Together, all these factors provided the strong basis to create the innovative program Empowering Lasting Leadership Excellence specially for women to best position them for success with skills and knowledge in order to empower them as strong contributors to the success of the agriculture and agri-food industry in Canada.
ELLE as the foundation for a research product conducted by WEKH
There has been a paucity of research to date on women entrepreneurs in rural and remote locations. Where such studies do exist, they are localized. As Cukier et al. (2020) note: “in Canada, women are underrepresented as majority owners but often have shared ownership of farms, typically with their partner” (p. 45). Women in agriculture have been labelled “invisible farmers” due to the strong patriarchal structure that equates this industry's activities as being synonymous with male efforts. Despite the hidden work that women engage in which is fundamental to business success, their labour has been poorly recognized and captured historically (Alston, 2003).
Key barriers as to why specific gender dynamics exist include: “lack of access to training, opportunities, mentorship, self-confidence, and double standards” (Cukier et al., 2020, p. 46).
Professional development and training in this case can be a key to overcoming such challenges. As Fletcher et al. (2020) assert: “Without the appropriate training and education, women have difficulty building and accessing networks that allow women to gain knowledge and resources required to scale their businesses. Thus, it is imperative that training and educational opportunities are created” (p. 19).
The ELLE program intends to build leadership capacity for women in the agriculture and agri-food industry. It is expected to be a “revelatory” case study (Yin, 2016), as the findings will be used to document successes and offer recommendations of how a learning solution might be transferred across sectors, in order to better build social, financial, and human capital for women via professional development opportunities. It is also hoped that this investigation will bolster an interest in the advancement of careers in agriculture and improve business management and planning capacity for women in this domain.
For more information on the research component please contact Dr. Amanda Williams: firstname.lastname@example.org .
Thank you to the members of our Advisory Committee