‘Untapped potential’ – opportunity for developing women in agriculture

Published Wednesday, 13th March 2019 in About SRUC news

Joyce Campbell, Co-chair of the Taskforce, says there is ‘untapped potential’ in Scotland’s women
Joyce Campbell, Co-chair of the Taskforce, says there is ‘untapped potential’ in Scotland’s women

Developing the role of women is key to the survival of Scottish agriculture, according to a Scottish Government Taskforce.

The Women in Agriculture Taskforce has identified a number of key areas where action needs to be taken for rural Scotland to have the sustainability and resilience it needs in the future. 
The Taskforce has revealed that many women are currently largely confined to supporting roles, when their abilities and expertise could be tapped into even more, significantly increasing the size of the agricultural workforce and enhancing their contribution to the industry. 
As the challenges of external factors and the pace of technological change take effect on the sector, it is key that what could be seen and perpetuated as a very traditional industry, further continues to builds balanced and resilient economy and workforce.
Taskforce members – all volunteers from across the agricultural landscape – found that there was a lack of confidence among large numbers of women to consider themselves able to take on leadership or more prominent roles in the agricultural industry, and that there were limited opportunities for women to network together on a professional basis and to support one another in what are often quite isolated circumstances.
Additional findings suggested that the contributions women are already making were essential to the smooth-running of farms and crofts, but that the women themselves were not routinely involved in strategic decision-making and long-term planning of agricultural businesses.
In response to these findings, a number of pilot initiatives will be rolled out this year including an equality charter for agriculture and three training pilots for women: a Women in Leadership Programme, aimed at unlocking the potential of future leaders and increasing the visibility of existing ones.  This would enable these women to be in a position to provide diversity of views to Boards and debate, inspire new entrants to the sector as well as younger women considering their agricultural career. 
Other training pilots in development aim to build confidence and enhance their skills and also further develop their skills in understanding their individual businesses. 
Women involved in agriculture will be able to apply directly to access these pilots, or nominate others to participate – it is intended that there will be multiple avenues for applications to ensure that the training gets to where it is needed.
Joyce Campbell, Farmer and co-Chair of the Taskforce, said: “There is so much untapped potential in our women, and in our land here in Scotland.  This Taskforce isn’t about building quotas – it’s about building expertise and increasing opportunities so that women can bring even more of their skills, leadership to our sector and increase business resilience.
“The Women in Agriculture Taskforce is proud to be responding to the needs of women in Scotland, but more importantly, to be driving the change that our country needs to build an even more powerful and resilient agricultural sector. Today we are launching a quick reference point for training providers and trainers, to help ensure that agricultural training opportunities are inclusive and accessible for all.”

Following his attendance at a meeting of the Women in Agriculture Taskforce, Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing said: “I am clear that inequality of opportunity in agriculture must end if Scottish Agriculture is to thrive.  That is why I am, and will continue to do everything I can to promote and support the delivery of the solutions that the Taskforce are developing to transform the position and opportunities of women in Scottish agriculture.”  
The Taskforce’s final report will be launched in late autumn 2019. 

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