Women in Agriculture Taskforce report released

women in agriculture
© iStock/wanderluster

The Scottish government’s Women in Agriculture Taskforce has published its final findings on gender equality in the sector.

The taskforce’s report identifies systemic marginalisation of women in the agriculture industry, with contributions made by women either undervalued or ignored. Women were found to be disproportionately overlooked for leadership roles, with the resulting lack of visibility meaning women were consequently reluctant to apply for these roles; while men were found to be overrepresented in agricultural training, as unconscious bias led decision makers to identify men as the ‘primary producers’.

Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing, a co-chair of the Women in Agriculture Taskforce, said: “It is neither acceptable nor business savvy for the agricultural industry to be so male dominated. Male-only structures and boards must be consigned to the past, as Scottish agriculture simply cannot afford to leave women behind. There are many women working in Scottish agriculture who have the ability, creativity and determination to drive the industry forward. Scottish agriculture must include and involve their talents more fully and equitably. Both I and the taskforce recognise that cultural change on this scale requires time and that while some solutions can be quickly implemented, others will be more long term. I would like to thank the taskforce for their work and look forward to working with them and industry on this important piece of work.”

The taskforce found that childcare and family concerns presented issues for women working in agriculture: as women typically take on the role of primary carers both for children and for elderly and sick relatives, a lack of access to formal or informal childcare provision across the sector was found to impact women’s professional lives.

The report issued a number of recommendations for shoring up the role of women in agriculture, including:

  • Promoting a professional environment which encourages and empowers women to take on leadership roles;
  • Ensuring equal access to training and skills development for women in agriculture;
  • Addressing cultural norms which view men as the automatic heirs to farms and agricultural businesses; and
  • Creating an Equality Charter within the Scottish agriculture sector.

Women in Agriculture Taskforce co-chair Joyce Campbell said: “This report is going to challenge people and shine a light into the darker corners of Scottish agriculture. But we hope it will also inspire and point towards a future agricultural industry that is strong, resilient and successful. It’s essential that organisations and businesses within Scottish agriculture work together to embrace diversity and equality, just as every other industry in Scotland is doing. Scottish agriculture cannot afford to be seen as the last bastion of sexism and outdated attitudes! We want an integrated, inclusive industry where everyone is welcome and valued and these recommendations will help to achieve that.”

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