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How John Deere Is Fostering Gender Diversity and Strengthening Communities

Mara Downing, vice president of corporate communications and brand management for John Deere, outlines how the company supports International Women’s Day efforts

by Mara Downing

March 8, 2023

Mara Downing / Illustration: Joel Kimmel

When Daisy Taylor was hired as a corporate stenographer back in 1885, John Deere began its longstanding commitment to and appreciation of female employees. Today, women run our factories, lead global teams, hold senior leadership positions and comprise nearly 36 percent of our Deere & Company board of directors.

I’m proud to work for a company that places tremendous value on gender diversity. By doing so, we foster a stronger corporate culture, better understand the diverse needs of our customers and amplify innovation on behalf of all those who have a stake in our success. That is why we’re pleased to be the premier corporate partner for International Women’s Day, a celebration honoring the achievements and contributions of women globally.

For the better part of two centuries, Deere has accelerated human progress by inventing and reinventing machines that carry the weight of a legendary brand—from the first steel plow capable of breaking through thick Midwestern soil to a fully autonomous tractor for large-scale farming operations. As we look ahead, it’s clear that women will play important roles in helping us meet the world’s rapidly growing need for food, housing and infrastructure. Our motto, “We run so life can leap forward,” underscores our promise to everyone, everywhere, that Deere will continue to dream, design and deliver breakthrough products to advance life and sustain our world for generations.

Our commitment to improving living standards globally is essential to upholding our legacy of exceptional performance and delivering superior value to all who depend on us. To achieve our goals, we’re focused on making positive contributions to our home communities and to society at large. Consequently, a key element of our corporate social responsibility strategy focuses on eliminating hunger.

According to World Food Program USA, more than 828 million people experience hunger globally, and 60 percent are women and girls. In two-thirds of countries, women are more likely than men to be hungry. And while nearly half of all small-scale farmers are women, they often lack basic resources such as fertilizer and equipment. Through Deere’s foundation, we’re committing at least $200 million over 10 years to ensure marginalized families and youth in our hometowns, and small farmers worldwide, have equitable access to resources—such as food—which we firmly believe are essential to human dignity, prosperity and self-sufficiency. Additionally, we’re investing $100 million in our home communities, including support for food banks to distribute 100 million meals; $50 million in farmers throughout the world to bolster their capacity to make a living and feed a growing population; and $50 million in our workforce to match the foundation’s investments and build on Deere employees’ enormous volunteer talents, generosity and passion for strengthening the communities in which they live and work.

When I began my John Deere career as an accountant in the tax department, I was fortunate to have mentors—men and women—who provided invaluable insight into our unique corporate culture. As my career progressed, experienced female leaders took an active interest in my development, empowering me to grow to reach my full potential. As a senior leader, I’m focused on ensuring all women, from our factory floors to our corporate offices, have access to a suite of career development resources.

Today, Deere offers female employees comprehensive purpose-driven development opportunities designed to engage, empower and inspire. Our company-sponsored employee resource groups are fostering collaboration and building connections with women working in manufacturing, engineering, marketing and more essential business functions. In addition, Women’s History Month celebrations will feature female customers leading agriculture and construction businesses and female employees who perform diverse jobs across the Deere enterprise.

Our partnership with and support of International Women’s Day is a powerful statement to stakeholders that John Deere is serious about using our industry-leading technologies, resources and collective talents to build a better world. The milestones we achieve serve as proof points to the horizons we seek, particularly when it comes to eliminating barriers to improved lives and livelihoods.

Mara Downing is the vice president of corporate communications and brand management for John Deere. This year, John Deere is the premier corporate partner for International Women’s Day, whose 2023 theme champions #EmbraceEquity.