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Former Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Krysta Harden talks with IW students Thursday about the value of having a mentor

A mentor for millennials
Apr 16, 2018
Photo by: Gretchen Teske Former Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Krysta Harden spoke with senior Darby Massner during a student led symposium on Thursday, April 12.

By Gretchen Teske, Mt. Pleasant News


Iowa Wesleyan students were able to get an inside look at some of the difficulties of being a woman in a male dominated industry from former Deputy Secretary of Agriculture, Krysta Harden, during a student led symposium Thursday, April 12. Harden was one of three women to hold the position over the last 150 years.

Harden grew up on a peanut farm in Camilla, Ga., a town of just over 5,000. She graduated from the University of Georgia with a journalism degree, and a minor in political science, after her family warned her, “do anything but agriculture.”

After graduation, she moved to Washington, D.C. to begin her career on Capitol Hill. It was there she realized her passion for agriculture and her ability to make a difference in the industry. “I cared more about where I was from and what was happening than I realized,” she said.

When Harden began her career, she immediately began to look for mentors to help her through the process. “When I started thinking about a career in agriculture, there were no women mentors,” she explained.

Harden had always envisioned herself working for women but was surprised to find that was not an option. “I’ve never had a female boss,” she remarked.

Instead, she sought to work for men who had daughters because she thought they would be understanding and give her the freedom to try things on her own. She credits the bosses she had for teaching her about more than just her industry. “I learned about how to manage people, how to promote, how to care (and) how to nurture people from the bosses that I’ve had,” she said.

She says it was that support and willingness to help her succeed that helped her gain success in her career. “You need mentors and you need to be mentoring somebody. I believe you get the same reward no matter where you are,” she explained.

She encouraged students to seek out mentors in their own lives, and to always be aware they have the opportunity to be a mentor for someone else.

Despite her success in her field, Harden says she still faces setbacks. One most personal to her is being a woman in a male dominated industry. Despite her position, she says she still is questioned and challenged. However, she says this only works as motivation for her to work harder and prove herself. She says she hopes this is an issue that will dissolve and that young women in the workforce now never have to deal with a similar issue. “It really takes men and women to be enlightened and to know this is a real issue,” she said.

Harden stressed to students, in particular, the importance of finding joy in the workplace. “Find joy in what you do or the rest of your life is miserable,” she said. She expressed the importance of taking time for oneself and having hobbies that take place outside the workplace. She explained that people will talk at length about what they love and that is one thing that sets them apart. “I do things that keep me interested, but also that keep me interesting,” she said.

Kendra Hefner, a senior psychology student at Iowa Wesleyan was intrigued by Harden’s take on women in male dominated industries. “It’s interesting just to hear from people who are minorities in their industry,” she said.

Fellow senior Darby Massner agreed with that sentiment, saying she found the advice Harden gave both inspiring and useful. “Not being intimidated by it and letting your voice be heard. That was all really good advice she gave,” she said.

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