Perceived Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity Across the US Agriculture Industry: From the Lived Experiences of Gay Men

TR Number



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


Virginia Tech


According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, approximately 22 million people work in the agriculture industry and in 2018, this figure represented roughly 11% of the total American workforce. Of these 22 million people, it is indisputable that some unknown percentage of them are Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex, Asexual+ people. With an exponentially growing population, now more so than ever before, the importance of a robust and socially sustainable workforce responsible for the food we eat is undeniable. In order for the agriculture industry to excel today while meeting the demands of tomorrow, it will require the best talent available and will require all agriculturalists to work collaboratively together. This phenomenological study tells the career stories thus far of ten white, gay, cisgender male agriculturalists. A keystone of Social Identity Theory is that the entire world around us can be divided into two groups, groups that we belong to and groups that we do not. By utilizing Social Identity Theory, we can see that gay men who work in agriculture have not always felt a part of the ingroup, and by default have been placed in the excluded outgroup, or the “them”. Social Identity Theory tells us that our group membership greatly impacts not only our pride, but our self-esteem (McLeod, 2019) which both can impact long-term talent retention and turnover rates for employers. The objective of this study was to explore the perceived levels of diversity, equity, and inclusion from the perspective of gay males who work within the industry through semi-structured interviews. This research concludes that the agriculture industry is not found to be diverse or inclusive based on the lived experiences of study participants. Additionally, this study offers recommendations for those in leadership roles within the industry to help create a more equitable environment for all agriculturalists.