top of page

Diverse Voices: Janet Fisher, Content Manager for Women in Agribusiness and Unconventional Ag with HighQuest Group

By Tyler Young, Syngenta Diverse Voices in Agriculture (March 19, 2024)


Meet Janet


As a part of HighQuest Group’s Women in Agribusiness (WIA) and Unconventional Ag teams, Janet Fisher brings not only nearly a decade of experience in renewable fuels but also a background in product development, category management, molecular biology, and industrial fermentation. Her experiences as a woman in the ag industry continues to drive her desire to collaborate in the cultivation of spaces where women can be both safe and empowered to be the best versions of themselves across an industry where they have been historically underrepresented and underserved.


Janet’s Journey


Janet Fisher, Content Manager for Women in Agribusiness

“At HighQuest, I’m the content manager for the organization’s Women in Agribusiness brand. The bulk of that job involves creating the program agendas, recruiting speakers for the annual summit, and helping the speakers craft their message to our audience. Before this, I had a career in fuel ethanol starting in R&D and molecular biology and then moved over to the commercial side of the business.” For Janet, this was a shift she pursued due to her R&D position not being one that spoke to her passion in the industry. “I ultimately found that I wanted to see a bigger picture in ag and agribusiness beyond just those sectors. Actually, the former CEO of HighQuest had reached out to me trying to sell my team at the time on attending that year’s WIA event.” Ironically, it was shortly thereafter that Janet found herself interested in HighQuest as an organization, and her interest led to an exciting new career shift and learning opportunity. “I came to this role because here I get to learn with and connect with people in agribusiness  across the industry and across the world.”


“The purpose of the Women in Ag brand is to showcase the breadth and depth of expertise and talent and thought leadership that women bring to ag business, particularly in the United States. At our core, we are an ag business brand. It’s about providing education across the industry that will help professionals make business decisions. Our brand recognizes the underrepresentation of women in this sector, and we endeavor to showcase those women, to get women on stage more often, and to get more women in the audience of agribusiness. Where historically these women might not be the ones sent to the big conference or asked to speak at the event, we’re highlighting the talent and expertise that already exists in the industry.”


“How do you get recognition for your thought leadership for the broader industry audience? It’s by speaking to the broader industry audience,” Janet reiterated. “We give women that opportunity to build and share their voice, knowing that they might not have that [opportunity] elsewhere.”


The Importance of Advocacy

Some of Janet's Women in Agribusiness colleagues, including Event Director Carrie Vita (center)

Over the course of her career in ag, Janet believes we’ve already seen a shift happen for women in the industry. “Specifically, the recognition from the larger companies—those with power and influence—recognizing the value of diverse voices within their employee and customer base, and in the broader community and industry. We see that with the emergence of employee and business resource groups in recent years that are focused on women and other historically underrepresented groups in agribusiness. It will be important that we continue to invest in bolstering these communities for employees and customers.”


But it goes without saying that there remain points of struggle in the continued growth of the industry. “I would add that it's undeniable that studies show not only the qualitative but the quantitative benefits of having diverse voices in positions of leadership. What I have seen in agribusiness is that it’s more prominent in certain segments of ag than others. Historically, we’re slow moving in cultural change as an industry, but we’re seeing positive growth. I would like to see this growth movie faster… but I am seeing growth in the right direction.”


“One of the number one things that’s critical for this cultural movement is recognition from the executive leaders of companies like Syngenta and others of the importance of diverse voices—particularly the uplifting of underrepresented voices. It's heartening to see that ED&I is being taken seriously through actions like defining executive level responsibilities and roles to enhance initiatives across agribusiness. It has to come down from the top if we’re going to have real cultural change.”


Paving a Way Forward


Although this is discourse that we should be having year-round, Janet feels that Women’s History Month is an important opportunity to realign on priorities. “It brings attention once a year—and in my work we do this every day—but it brings broader attention economy-wide, industry-wide, to women’s place in our culture and society and in agribusiness, where we have a lot of work to do. It forces us to think critically about the work we do internally to facilitate conversations and information sharing around subjects that advance women where we’ve been historically underrepresented. It’s a touch point that brings us back to that conversation once a year.”


“For the industry, I want to see a continual shift that’s needed to put women on equal footing where we’ve been left out of the conversation. On the farm level in particular, we’ve seen recent reports that show difficulty for female growers in getting financing, lower profits across women-owned (or operated) farms, and difficulty in getting access to mentorship and resources that could really help them in their businesses.” In Janet’s eyes, Women in Agribusiness and the companies they partner with, can play a key role in rectifying this for the future. 


Attendees at the 2023 WIA Summit in Nashville

“I’d love to see us get to a place where that’s no longer an issue. In agribusiness itself, on the corporate side, we’re perhaps seeing a faster shift, but it’s only happening because of the work that brands like WIA and ERGs and other ED&I groups are doing. We need to get to a place where we’re able to contribute our voices and unique and diverse Nashvilleperspectives. 


“I think for this year’s WIA Summit, we’re really focused on providing intentional connection opportunities. The majority of attendees say that their top priority at the event is networking and building connections of substance that are mutually beneficial. One way that the Summit will address this will be by providing more structured opportunities to create these connections. My goal for this year’s Summit is for every audience member to walk away with at least one new substantive and mutually beneficial relationship in the industry. It’s critical for us to continue lifting each other up. It’s critical for us to all be connected to the right people within our networks so we can help each other.”


Meet Janet and the rest of the Women in Agribusiness team at this year's Summit, September 24-26 in Denver, Colorado. Learn more at womeninag.com.


 

 

Comentarios


Do you have a story you'd like to contribute to WIA Today? Or a suggestion for a story, or comments about an article? Please reach out to Michelle Marshall at mmarshall@womeninag.com and share your thoughts. We'd love to hear from you.

bottom of page