The Gender Gap in Landownership: A Brief History

The Gender Gap in Landownership has most definitely improved. It is hard to believe, but the right to own and manage land is relatively new for American women. In 1718, women gained the right to own and manage property, but only if their husband became incapacitated. It wasn’t until 1771 that a husband was required to obtain his wife’s consent to sell property that she herself brought into their marriage. In 1839, Mississippi became the first state to allow women to own property solely in their own name, but it wasn’t until 1900 that all states allowed married women to enter into contracts and manage their own land. Since then, more and more American women have acquired and managed land of their own, although the way that they approach land ownership differs from that of men.

Statistics on Land Ownership 

Today, it is estimated that of all the farm and ranch land that is privately owned in the Unites States, 42 percent is leased out to tenants. Those tenants might work the land for farming or ranching purposes, or use it for managed hunting, wildlife refuge or a wide range of other purposes. While tenants may hold responsibility for the day-to-day operations on a piece of land, the owners have a say in how those operations are run, especially in regard to conservation efforts and long-term sustainability. Women own a significant portion of leased farm and ranch land, some on their own and others in partnership with their husbands, siblings, parents or other relatives. It should be noted that while approximately 30 percent of all American farmers are women, only 6 percent of those women own and operate the farms where they carry out their work.

Projected Trends in Female Land Ownership

It is estimated that by 2030, women will own 75 percent of all transferred farmland. In many cases, that ownership will come via inheritance, as farming husbands predecease their wives. Some will inherit farm and ranch lands when their parents or other relatives pass away. Statistics show that women live longer lives than men, and advancements in technology and medicine mean that women can enjoy active, healthy lives well into their later years. The convergence of these statistics suggest that land ownership could provide the means for a range of financial benefits for older women.

Empowering Women to Effectively Manage Their Land

In order to reap the full rewards of land ownership, women must play an active role in deciding how and by whom their property will be managed. Many female land owners have a strong desire to not just reap financial rewards from their land, but to leave a legacy for future generations. It is also common for female land owners to share a commitment to conservation efforts, and to want to preserve their land and the environment. Statistics suggest that women who lease their land tend to encounter obstacles to achieving those goals at a higher rate than male owners. The reasons for that gap may stem from a lack of experience in land management, a lack of awareness of programs that could assist in those efforts, or gender bias on the part of tenants and others. Fortunately, this subject is receiving renewed attention, and there are efforts underway to improve the ability of female land owners to make the most out of their land holdings. Interestingly, younger female land owners seem to take a more active role in managing their land than older female owners. That could be due to the steady pace of social change that supports the rights of women to expand their traditional roles within the family and the workforce.

The Power of Collaboration

One of the most effective ways to make land ownership a profitable and rewarding experience for women is to leverage the power of collaborative learning. To that end, multiple different organizations are taking action to reach out to female land owners and provide the education, support and resources needed for effective land management. An example lies in a program by the Women, Food and Agriculture Network that creates and supports women-only learning circles throughout the Midwest. These efforts offer women an opportunity to receive current information on conservation practices and their options for integrating those efforts on their own land. The female-only settings encourages women to speak out and collaborate on issues they face in effectively managing their own land. The results of the pilot project have been encouraging, with around half of all program participants making at least one change to increase conservation within 12 months of participating in a learning circle. Efforts are currently underway to extend the program into other areas of the nation.

Leasing Land Would Help Close the Gender Gap by Allowing Woman to Own  Land and Lease it Out to Make the Payments on It

The ability to own land directly generates financial benefits for further generating even more money through developing businesses, selling the property, or renting it for a consistent source of income. Land leasing has the capacity to provide women the ability to own property and rent it out for recurring revenue. The type of money women could see from leasing their land is substantial. Women can even purchase land with the intent to lease it to pay off the monthly payment to own it outright. One of our landowners recently received an agreement with a cell tower company, he only had to lease 50 ft. by 50 ft. of his land to a cell tower company and received $1.6 million dollars. Imagine the impact that type of money could have for women across America.

For older female landowners, this is a good way to keep the property in the family, without the effort of having to manage the property directly. Alternatively, land leasing is a cheaper than purchasing property, which would allow women attempting to break into male dominated industries that require property, the chance to make enough money to one day purchase their own.

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