This month’s word is a very timely one as I reflect on our recent Inclusion Challenge event: inclusion. These days it’s a word that’s rarely used by itself – it comes with friends like diversity and equity. Often these are the three musketeers of new corporate cultures, as we cannot achieve diversity without an inclusive environment in which everyone can express their authentic selves, and we cannot achieve that without an equity mindset.
At the heart of any of this, of course, is people: we had four great women entrepreneurs pitching at our Radicle Inclusion Challenge presented by Nutrien pitch day event in Des Moines on the 18th of October. Picking the two winners was tough. Congratulations to Angela de Manzanos of FA Bio and Martha Montoya of Agtools for the leadership of their respective companies. We look forward to having them as part of our growing network of companies and entrepreneurs at Radicle Growth.
In addition to the companies pitching last week, we had two great panels. The first panel at the start of the day focused on issues facing large, multinational ag companies. It featured three great women leaders: Candace Laing of Nutrien, Kathy Shelton of FMC, and Wendy Srnic of Corteva. At the end of the event, the second panel featured three more great women leaders, Jan Low of CIP in the CGIAR, Agnes Quisumbin of IFPRI in the CGIAR, and Usha Barwale Zehr of Mahyco. While the two panels covered very different global issues across the ag industry, they were connected by the issue of inclusion and the need for inclusive cultures to enable progress for improved women and minority benefits and outcomes.
From the first panel, the focus was on the women and minority leaders inside the companies themselves, but also on women and minority leader needs in companies working as part of the supply chains and communities with whom Nutrien, FMC, and Corteva work. The market power of these companies is being leveraged to impact a much larger number of people than just those within the companies. As Candace Laing pointed out, when expectations are set for DEI focus and results by Nutrien, the market responds to the benefit of all.
The second panel focused on the need for inclusive groups and marketplaces that help women address their chronic lack of access to critical resources. Let’s remember that women across developing world agriculture represent half or more of all farmers but only own 15% of all land. And women are chronically under-educated, with only 2% of all women farmers having a high school degree, and both language and numerical literacy rates are low. Usha Zehr pointed out that the informal networks and social settings that enable men to share insights on farming and improve their access to technologies are lacking for women. Simply putting such networks in place can be a powerful mechanism to foster improved access to information and other assets.
Agnes Quisumbing shared an approach using the Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index (https://www.ifpri.org/project/weai) over the past ten years to identify opportunities for entrepreneurship revealed through quantitative analysis. The most critical issues found are 1) access to and credit decisions, 2) an overwhelming workload, and 3) a lack of membership in groups.
Taken together, we are reminded that by improving inclusive cultures across geographies, individual companies, and interconnected supply chains, we can enable improved diversity outcomes through equitable mindsets. Entrepreneurship in agriculture across all geographies was also identified as a powerful tool for improving diversity benefits.
We at Radicle Growth are committed to advancing inclusive cultures through the companies we invest in, the partners we serve, and the entrepreneurs we directly support.