The farming sector needs to encourage more female participation in the industry and promote the significant role of women already working in agriculture.
were the key messages at the Women in Agriculture event hosted by
Scotland’s Rural College at the Royal Highland Show.
Secretary for Rural Economy and Connectivity, Fergus Ewing, kicked off
proceedings by launching plans for Scottish Government research into women
working in farming industries.
He said: “We
have commissioned this research to identify the challenges and come up with
policy initiatives to improve women’s participation in farming. In particular
the contribution women make to agriculture in Scotland and the wider rural
economy which is not always visible.”
Sally Shortall, has been commissioned by the Scottish Government to carry out
the research, assisted by colleagues at the James Hutton Institute.
“While we will focus on identifying the issues and producing actual policy
recommendations to help improve the situation; the study is not anti-men or
about positive discrimination,” Sally explained. “It is about it is about
improving the efficiency and economic viability of the farm and farming.”
Many of the
other speakers echoed that message, that women in the sector were not
interested in special treatment, merely for their skills and experience to be
recognised and put to good use supporting the industry.
Thomson, Legal and Technical Policy Manager at NFU Scotland, said: “Promoting
women in agriculture is not a new thing, but it is now building into a positive
force. What we don’t want is positive discrimination however. That would be
negative. But agriculture needs to be much better at promoting itself as a real
career choice for females.”
Member and Vet Kate Richards noted that: “Women often feel they have to be
better and give more to be taken seriously. That is an image that needs to
change with women accepted as equals.”
also spoke of need to change perceptions. He said: “What we need to achieve is
to change that image of the average Scottish farmer – being older and male.”
hundred women (and a few men) in the room, and seven inspirational female
speakers, it is clear that that image is not necessarily a true representation
of the industry. However, many of those at the event felt more
needs to be done to encourage women into the sector, both those from a
farming background, and those who might consider themselves ‘outsiders’.
‘outsider’, SAOS’s Emma Patterson Taylor, said: “There are many advantages you
can bring as an ‘outsider’ – you look at things from a different perspective
and are not bound by the way it has always been done.”
Acting CEO and Principal, Janet Swadling, was also new to the sector when she
joined SRUC twenty years ago. She concluded the event by saying: “I did not
come from a farming background, but I am absolutely passionate about what I do,
and am proud to have led the national college for the land-based sector for two
and a half years.
“I think as
an industry we all need to do more to promote the great work being done by
women and men in the agricultural sector, and try and get more young women in
particular studying and working in this field.”