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April 27, 2017 blog

“My wife loves buying new shoes”

In late March, I had the honor of introducing my former boss and early mentor at a Chrysalis’ Conversation series luncheon – Denise O’Brien, co-founder of the Women, Food and Agriculture Network (WFAN) and 2000 Iowa Women’s Hall of Fame honoree.

As I read through the script the night before and made a few tweaks, my mind wandered to all of the things Denise has faced throughout her life as a woman in agriculture. It also went back to the summer of my sophomore year of college doing an internship with the WFAN, living and working with Denise and her family on their family’s farm. At the time, I was in my early 20s at Iowa State University (ISU), still trying to figure out which path to take in life. That summer, I met more women in agriculture than I did during my several years in agricultural classes at ISU. 

My mind flew back to the times I sat alone – often the sole female – in my agronomy classes and labs, looking in vain for someone else to relate to and to ask questions to without feeling embarrassed. I remembered the time one of my male classmates actually looked at me and asked me point blank, “Why are you here?”

I recalled the time as the sole female in my welding class at a community college when my instructor walked into the room, looked straight at me, and said with a laugh, “Is everyone here in the right place? Everyone?” and most of the other guys in the room looked straight at me and laughed. My memory went back to the start of that same class when the same instructor, as I was having problems operating an angle grinder, looked at me and said with a short laugh, "Welcome to welding." Never mind the fact that a male friend of mine, who was taking the same class and standing beside me at the time was having the same problems operating a grinder. He did not get the same "welcome" message from our instructor - nor did he receive the special recognition that I did when our class came to a close and our instructor announced to all that he was pleasantly surprised with the quality of my welds. 

I also remembered the time during the same class when an older man asked me why I wasn’t taking home economics, and followed with, “Those boots look new. Did you just buy them? My wife loves buying new shoes.”

That semester, to the astonishment of the others in my class, I made sure my welds were absolutely flawless. I could not afford to make mistakes.

Being a female in a male-dominated field can be incredibly lonely. The pressure is on to prove yourself in a world where you are often seen as more of a nuisance than a colleague – or more of a joke than someone with the knowledge and skills to be taken seriously. 

I feel so honored to have had the numerous early female mentors I did to teach me how to be tough and power through when most are saying you can’t and when others are waiting for you to fail. Female networks and early and continued mentoring are so important in keeping women interested in the science, technology, engineering, math, business and agricultural fields. We need each other.

Written by: Kristen Corey, Office on the Status of Women

200th Anniversary of Deaf Education

Please enjoy the message from Gallaudet University President Roberta Cordano as she shares a special message in honor of the 200th anniversary of Deaf education in America. If you are Hard of Hearing or hearing, you may use the closed captioning.

Scroll Down to 200th Anniversary of Deaf Education please

Thank you.

Jill Fulitano Avery, Executive Officer, Deaf Services