Ag Campus

Just outside Morgan Hall on UT's Ag Campus.

As Linda Baxter walked into Morgan Hall at what was once the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources in 1984, she knew she had big shoes to fill.

Baxter, one of the first female agriculture teachers in East Tennessee, has seen her fair share of discrimination in her career field.

Feeling as though women had to work twice as hard as men in the agriculture education field, Baxter wrote her master’s thesis on the experience of women in agriculture education across generations.

When Baxter first started attending conventions and events, she would often be confused as it was not common to see women teaching agriculture.

“Within the male hierarchy of teaching it was difficult for female teachers to teach in a non-traditional field,” Baxter said. 

Peyton Scharett, a fellow graduate from the University of Tennessee, is now a high school agriculture teacher in the same rural East Tennessee town that Baxter retired from.

While Scharett has not been confused as a co-worker’s wife, she has seen some trials to being a young female professional.

“I think when you combine my age with me being a woman, people do not take me as seriously as they would others,” Scharett said.

Scharett pushes herself to continue sharing her passion for agriculture and bringing new and unique ideas to the table as a woman, even while not always feeling heard.

“Teaching is a female driven profession while agriculture is a male,” Scharett said. “Although I do feel like the latter is starting to change.”

Teresa Walker, recently selected as the Tennessee Sportswriter of the Year by the National Association of Sports Media, is another UT graduate finding herself in a male driven profession. While Walker finds herself in this position, she has continued to strive to pave a way, the way others have for her.

Pat Summitt, Helene Elliott and Linda Comb are just a few of the women that have inspired Walker throughout her career in sports journalism.

“I’ve been far luckier than some of my female colleges,” Walker said.

While Walker has not experienced the same degree of sexism as fellow female sports journalists, she did not receive a lot of encouragement when first starting her career as the Associated Press’ sports journalist.

“A fellow co-worker and friend tried to talk me out of sports,” Walker said, “coming up with a pile of stories saying, ‘look at what these women have gone through.’”

Walker also recalls receiving so-called complaints from a football coach at the beginning of her career, stating that she asked good questions for a girl. 

In a profession full of men, Walker encourages young women to be competitive and to come prepared for the job assigned to them, protecting their “turf” in the process.

Walker believes that while women have continued to face these issues, it is more prevalent now that social media plays a huge role in sports media, allowing for anyone to threaten and make sexist comments behind a screen to female sports journalists trying to simply share their opinion on a college football game.

Whether it is in agriculture, sports or any of the male driven professions, women of all generations have faced adversity and sexism in response to their chosen career paths.

While there is light seen at the end of some tunnels, there are still ways that need to be paved in order for women to make their way in a male driven society.

These women have continued to pave that way for women with non-traditional passions and professional goals, holding their heads high and making an impact on young women.

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