International Women’s Day viewpoints – an interview with Mary-Jane Lawrie, Consultant, SAC Consulting Solutions

Mary-Jane Lawrie, Senior Agricultural Consultant, SAC Consulting Solutions

SRUC is celebrating International Women's Day 2024 today by bringing you the voices of women from across SRUC, SAC Consulting and SRUCSA. Here's what Mary-Jane Lawrie, Senior Agricultural Consultant at SAC Consulting Solutions had to say:


Can you tell be briefly about your role in SAC? 

I am a senior agricultural consultant based in the Edinburgh office.  I give general agricultural advice to farmers across the Lothians, from grants and subsidies to fertiliser planning and business plans.  I have a degree in Conservation Biology, so I specialise in biodiversity advice, helping farmers find space for nature on their farms.  As well as my day-to-day role as a Consultant, I also oversee part of the Farm Advisory Service delivery, which includes overseeing our work on Women in Agriculture.   


Alongside your work with SAC, you have a young family at home and a farm business – what advice do you have to someone in balancing many roles and responsibilities? 

I have three boys aged three, six and eight and I always feel like I’m being pulled in a million directions! My main pieces of advice would be to find good childcare and accept that you can’t do everything.  We are very lucky that we have a wonderful childminder who goes above and beyond to help us, and we rely on other families to help with lifts for the kids to after school clubs etc.  I also work part time at SAC, I don’t think I could work full time and still fulfil my role on the family farm and look after the kids.  I enjoy having 4 days a week at home with them, and I also enjoy my 3 days at SAC to get some time away!  Now that they are all at school/school nursery life is a bit easier as I get time to catch up on farm paperwork while they’re at school/nursery.  I also think it’s important to make time for yourself, so I always take a lunch break at work to go for a walk, and, now that my youngest is at nursery, I try to catch up with friends or do things I enjoy – it’s really important to look after yourself as if you burn out then it all falls apart! 


You’ve led the FAS Women in Agriculture network in Scotland for a few years now. What do you enjoy most about it, and what do you hope to achieve in the network in the next few years? 

I’ve overseen the FAS women in agriculture delivery since it started in 2017, and I find it a very rewarding part of my work.  It’s very social and it’s important to build up those connections between women who attend.  I really enjoy being able to facilitate meetings that I myself would find useful and giving them the tools to manage their businesses.  The lovely thing about running the women in agriculture delivery is that we get so many nice emails from attendees saying how much the WIA groups have helped them and their businesses by giving them confidence, a new network of friends and teaching them new things that they didn’t feel comfortable learning at a general meeting.  That’s really rewarding to know that you’ve helped someone.  We’ve just had our first national conference which was a great success, so I hope to run that again in the future, as well as reaching even more women with our network of events.  It would be great to get more women coming along that perhaps haven’t come to any FAS meetings before.    


Have you faced any challenges or barriers in your career for being a woman? 

I have to say, I don’t think I’ve really faced any barriers.  When I started as a consultant 15 years ago I would often be the only woman in the room at farmer meetings, and I didn’t feel that there were any barriers to me being involved in business.  However, I do think it was harder to make myself heard or be taken seriously.  I do think things have changed though, and I don’t feel that way now, whether that is a confidence or age thing, or whether society is changing I’m not sure!  Probably a combination of the two.  


What influence do you strive to have on female colleagues and in your wider network? 

I hope that I give them confidence to pursue their goals for them and their businesses.  I am from a farming background, so I am fortunate that I’ve had lots of strong female role models before me, my mum and granny being my main influences.  Having a career as well as children and a farm business is hard. I totally understand the challenges that women involved in agriculture face.  I think that this understanding helps me to support other women, whether that’s colleagues or women who come to our FAS groups.   

Posted by SRUC on 08/03/2024

Tags: Agriculture, Farm Advisory Service, SAC Consulting
Categories: Consulting and Commercial | SRUC and Campuses