Culture

Women in Agriculture: Progressive Scottish Farming

“One of the biggest challenges we face across the industry is the war for talent.”Dr Mark Lyons


An increasing number of women are employed in agriculture in Scotland. The latest figures show that 23% of those engaged in farming and crofting are women with it rising to 32% seasonally. Scottish Agricultural Census

Historically in Orkney women were left to run the farm while the men had to leave the islands to seek better paid employment elsewhere like the Hudson Bay Company or whaling.

Woman in first world war farming

During both world wars the responsibility of running farms was often left with women.

The Scottish Government set up a taskforce to look into the role of women in agriculture today in Scotland and found that their contribution was undervalued.

Amsterdam Event

On the 3rd to 4th of December over 300 delegates from 26 countries made their way to Amsterdam for the inaugural Women in Food & Agriculture Summit. The agribusiness and food event brought together some of the sector’s most progressive and disruptive thinkers with an audience that wanted to openly debate the inclusivity and diversity of the agrifood industry.

women in agriculture 1 Amsterdam

The speakers covered a host of progressive topics including the role of blockchain in generating more income for farmers, how the Dutch are planning to pay farmers for the true cost of food production and what the sector needs to do to address its sustainability challenges.

Olga Korzhova, the event organiser, said: 

“The event was not about sexism nor feminism, it was about an intentional provocation of some hard-hitting conversations.”

Prior to the event a survey was conducted.

The survey had 2,500 respondents, 72% of whom were women; the dominant feedback was that there is a difference in how women feel women are treated in the sector, versus how men feel women are treated.

Dr. Mark Lyons, president and CEO of Alltech, the sponsors of the survey, addressed the event on the first morning, and said that he’d heard a number of times at the event that women felt that the sector was male dominated.

Dr Lyons said:

“One of the biggest challenges we face across the industry is the war for talent.

“We cannot lose great people because they perceive the ag industry as male-dominated. That’s a crisis for the entire agri-food sector.”

There were very frank and open discussions between speakers and delegates agreed that the sector is making some great strides in becoming more inclusive, but also it highlighted what barriers there are for women in all ages and stages of their careers.

women in agriculture 2 Amsterdam

Olga Korzhova said:

“Topics like the danger of unconscious bias, managing change and the importance of mentoring for women at all stages of their careers were dominant in conversations that we heard.”

A similar event is now being planned for 2020

Women in Agriculture:  Progressive Scottish Farming

The task force set up by the Scottish Government (click here for the report: Women in Agriculture)set out a series of recommendations on:

  • Leadership
  • An Equality Charter
  • Training
  • Childcare
  • Succession
  • New Entrants
  • Health and Safety
  • Crofting
  • Collection of Data

Co-chair of the task force 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.”

The Equality Charter

The Equality Charter for Scottish agriculture is a set of principles and actions developed by the Taskforce, for ensuring that everyone involved in an agricultural business has access to training, resources and career progression opportunities.

The Equality Charter is extremely important because it sets the basis of the changes that are required in Scotland’s agricultural industry. This is one of 3 pilot programmes which has been set up.

women in agriculture The Charter

By the end of 2022 all agricultural organisations, bodies, and businesses seeking to participate in formal Scottish Government agricultural stakeholder groups must evidence compliance with the Equality Charter.

To find out more about Women in Agriculture in Scotland click on this link: Women in Agriculture Progressive Scottish Farming

Fergus Ewing,Co-chair of the task force  and Rural Economy Secretary in the Scottish Government  said:

Fergus Ewing“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.”

North Ronaldsay Sheep

North Ronaldsay Sheep, Photo By Farmer Jane Cooper

Reporter: Fiona Grahame

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