10 Fields Where the Glass Ceiling Isn't Even Cracked

Commercial Farmer
Sixty percent of the female farmers in the U.S. make less than $5,000 in annual sales. Only 3 percent of commercial farms are led by women. Thomas Barwick/Getty Images

Women have been growing and selling food since the beginning of time. That's still true today. Yet female farmers overwhelmingly work at small and mid-sized farms. According to the 2012 Agricultural Census, a mere 3.3 percent of America's total agricultural sales came from women. That meager acreage may be one reason why about 60 percent of the female farmers counted in the census sold fewer than $5,000 in agricultural products [sources: Rosenberg, USDA].

With these statistics in mind, it's not surprising that when you look at America's commercial farms – defined as those with gross cash farm income of at least $10,000 annually — more than 97 percent are led by men, with less than 3 percent steered by women [sources: Rosenberg, Hoppe].

Why aren't there more women involved in larger-scale farming? No one knows for sure. But U.S. farm policy makes it difficult for anyone to make a living by farming unless they're running a large operation. And with women clustering around smaller agricultural operations, it doesn't look hopeful that the number of female farmers — whether commercial or noncommercial — will rise in the near future. The latest statistics bear this out. The 2012 Agricultural Census shows that since 2007, the number of women who were in charge of farms decreased 6 percent [sources: Rosenberg, USDA].