Although a woman was elected Vice-President in the 2020 Presidential election, the glass ceiling for most women is all too real. In 2020, only 37 women headed Fortune 500 companies. While that is a new high, it is not enough.
In Stuttgart, Jay Coker and his farming, ag business, and duck hunting operations has several women, including his wife, Misti, in positions of leadership.
“My take on women in ag comes from my grandmother, Minnie Lee Heien (Raymond). Her husband, my grandfather, died in 1968, but she continued on at age 53, overseeing and continuing on with operating and improving the farm.” Coker said.
Coker has been surrounded by strong women, his mom Raye Ann Coker, aunt LeeAnn Krisell, wife Misti, not to mention the three daughters he and Misti have, Lauren Stringer (Marc), Katie Henderson (Tyler) and Anna Smyly (Carson). He and Misti have three grandchildren Barrett and Jack who belong to Katie and Sutton, who belongs to Anna. When his sister, Jackie’s husband Mike Hill, was diagnosed with brain cancer, Jackie had to take over more of the farm duties.
Coker’s first job out of college was for Bob Tindall and his daughter, Kay Tindall Trice. His mother and aunt gave him an opportunity to farm a few years later. He farmed for George Dunklin where it was very important that George’s mother, Mrs. Lib Dunklin was pleased. Currently, Coker now farms for Judy Boyd and also Becky Weinmiller with Grand Prairie Farm and Water.
It is easy to see that Coker has had a lot of interaction with women in ag. Coker says that there has never been a problem dealing with women.
“In our little world, the way I was brought up, and my girls, you can do anything you want, if you are willing to work hard enough for it” Says Coker. He goes on to say that his wife, Misti, has been with him every step of the way and “has always provided great advice and insight into any endeavor we chose to explore.”
When asked about working with the women in his office, Coker is quick to say the last four or five years with this group here, there is nothing they can not do, aside from the physical part. Michele Adamson takes care of overall business and financial matters, and Leslie Bednar oversees sales and marketing of Cohelms irrigation products as well as social media and marketing for Dry Lake Hunting Service. Whatever field women choose to go in, being a woman should not hold them back. Women are more organized, structured, planning, they bring to the table what men are weak in. They bring diverse opinions because of their own background.
“We make decisions based on prior situations we have been in. Women’s experiences are different than mine, so they bring a diverse opinion based on their background, to a meeting. That diversity and diverse opinions or input is valuable. They stay on task, are timelier. The women I have been around do not put up with the good old boy, they do not put up with any BS. They are specific and to the point.” Coker said.
“The women I have been around have strong qualities, confident, know their subject matter. They are all business. Things we have to do in ag now, whether it is Leslie and marketing or Michelle with financing, as far as interacting with suppliers, all the little things they are their strong points.” Coker went on to say, “I’ve been being told what to do by women my whole life. So, when Misti, or Michele or Leslie have input, then its no different than if it was coming from another partner or male influence I may have.”
Coker sees their strong points and allows them to grow. When either Leslie (Bednar) or Michelle (Adamson) see a problem or maybe something not done correctly, they can go to Coker and he listens.
“It is easy to talk about change, but these girls get involved they do it.” Coker said, “Women have had to juggle different responsibilities than men, household, children, grocery shopping, and all these qualities are now beingexpressed in the workplace.”
Coker feels they have a good balance and diversity, knowing and recognizing qualities of employees, whether male or female.
In addition to these ag business interests, Coker serves as Chairman of Producers Rice Mill and the Arkansas Rice Research and Promotion Board.