MORE WOMEN DIG AGRICULTURE
BURLINGTON, VT. — "Sometimes I look at colleges of agriculture as the last bastion of the good old boys," says Catherine Donnelly of the University of Vermont.As the associate director of the university's agricultural experiment station, Dr. Donnelly is the only woman in the United States to hold such a position. She laments the lack of women leaders and role models throughout the field of agriculture. In 1990, 38 percent of the undergraduate degrees awarded at land-grant colleges of agriculture went to women, according to the Food and Agricultural Education Information System (FAEIS) project at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas. That figure includes women who major in home economics, an area that traditionally falls under the umbrella of agricultural schools. Sheri Stebenne Whatley, project coordinator for FAEIS, says the number of women getting degrees in agriculture is increasing slowly, a trend encouraged by the opening up of more opportunities in the field for women than there were five or 10 years ago. "There are fewer closed doors," Ms. Whatley says. "With the government encouraging diversity in our workplace, companies and industries in agriculture and food sciences are recognizing the need to maintain a diversified work force." What fields are women entering? Whatley says more women are choosing science-oriented fields. At Texas A&M University, for example, women are specializing in plant sciences, agribusiness, and biochemistry. The same thing is happening at the University of Vermont. "Twenty years ago if you were in the animal sciences department, you would be one of few females," Donnelly says. "Two years ago in the first-year student class, there were 39 females and one male."