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Katie Pinke at her 40th birthday party alongside her youngest child, Anika. (Submitted photo)

The Pinke Post: Still needing to push for inclusion? Crazy

With the convergence of Women's History Month, International Women's Day on March 8 and National Ag Day on March 14, I'm at the crossroads of many aspects of my life. Quite frankly, as a 40-year-old American woman in agriculture and business, I thought we'd be farther along with gender equality issues in 2019.

I'm also a former athlete, coach and mom of three kids who all participate in an array of sports. A few weeks ago, I showed my daughters, ages 9 and 11, a Nike commercial I saw on Serena William's Instagram account. Narrating the ad, Williams says:

"If we show emotion, we're called dramatic. If we want to play against men, we're nuts. And if we dream of equal opportunity, we're delusional. When we stand for something, we're unhinged. When we're too good, there's something wrong with us. And if we get angry, we're hysterical, irrational or just being crazy.

"But a woman running a marathon was crazy. A woman boxing was crazy. A woman dunking, crazy. Coaching an NBA team, crazy. A woman competing in a hijab, changing her sport, landing a double-cork 1080, or winning 23 grand slams, having a baby, and then coming back for more, crazy, crazy, crazy and crazy.

"So if they want to call you crazy, fine. Show them what crazy can do."

My daughters' instant reactions without any prompting or words from me showed me their strength — and the reality of the situation. One daughter said, "That is exactly how it is, mom!" Another said, "Oh yeah, I can do whatever a boy can do."

Not exactly, but I understood her direction and instinct. Boys and girls, men and women are not the same. We were not created to be the same. I understand, respect and appreciate the differences in gender roles. However, men and women, boys and girls are equal when it comes to rights.

Unfortunately, in an array of professional and personal roles, I've seen women and girls not be included as equals, time and time again. It bothers me that in 2019, I'm watching a commercial about equality for women nearly 50 years after Title IX was passed to prohibit discrimination in any federally funded education program or activity and nearly 100 years after the 19th amendment was ratified giving women the right to vote in America.

Even at their young ages, my girls can share examples of times when they have been minimized in sports and school situations by males, or maybe by an uneducated, insecure woman, influenced by my motherly instinct.

Outside of sports and in my realm of working in agriculture and small business, the greatest need I see is inclusion. We need women and men at the table making decisions together. While so much of the chatter and conversations happen in social media and online spaces, which is important, we need the change and inclusion to happen offline, in our businesses, corporations, governments, elected bodies, volunteer boards and more.

Bringing women into boardrooms increases margins and profits. The Peterson Institute for International Economics completed a survey of 21,980 firms from 91 countries and found having women at the C-Suite level, most often with the word "chief" in their title as a high-ranking executive, significantly increases net margins.

"A profitable firm at which 30 percent of leaders are women could expect to add more than 1 percentage point to its net margin compared with an otherwise similar firm with no female leaders," the report notes. "By way of comparison, the typical profitable firm in our sample had a net profit margin of 6.4 percent, so a 1-percentage-point increase represents a 15-percent boost to profitability."

According to Weber Shandwick's Gender Forward Index of 2016: "Only 10.9 percent of senior executives at the world's largest 500 companies are women. Not one company has an equal representation of men and women in their top ranks, and nearly 40 percent have an all-male senior leadership team. The Index also shows that those companies designated with a Fortune 'Most Admired' status have twice as many women in senior management as those with lesser regarded reputations (17 percent versus 8 percent, respectively). The top industry for women in senior management is general merchandisers (33 percent female). North America has the highest proportion of senior women (19 percent), while Sweden is the individual market with the highest proportion of senior women (27 percent)."

It's March, and at this crossroads of my life, I'm going to keep doing what I've been doing — celebrating my roles in agriculture and business and encouraging my kids and others in my life. Before I get emails, letters and tweets from angry males thinking this is anything against them, it is not. I wouldn't be where I am if it wasn't for males and females in leadership positions teaching, mentoring and hiring me. My husband and I talk about this often, as partners, how we can make the world a better place for all kinds of people.

We need women and men to create inclusion. It's not about excluding anyone. I hope I can come alongside other leaders I model and become a leader for the next generation to follow. Today and into the future, I'll pull myself up to the boardroom table. You'll find me working alongside my husband as a second generation in a family business. I will continue to work daily with the Agweek and AgweekTV team to bring news and more to our readers and viewers. Each month I'll be listening and speaking up at city council meetings. There's work to be done for the sake of equality. And Serena William's voice will repeat in my head, "So if they want to call you crazy, fine. Show them what crazy can do."