‘Outdated attitudes’ exclude women from farming

Sexism and outdated attitudes are preventing women from achieving successful careers in Scottish agriculture, says a report.

A fundamental cultural change is needed to bring about gender equality in the agricultural industry, says the Women in Agriculture Taskforce.

See also: Time to recognise role of women in farming

Commissioned by the Scottish government, the taskforce report says women’s contribution to the agricultural industry can be undervalued, downplayed, or simply unseen.

The taskforce, which included farming representatives from across Scotland, was co-chaired by Sutherland hill farmer Joyce Campbell (pictured).

“This report is going to challenge people and shine a light into the darker corners of Scottish agriculture,” she said.

“But we hope it will also inspire and point towards a future agricultural industry that is strong, resilient and successful.

The taskforce’s recommendations include:

  • creating an environment that empowers women to take up leadership posts and supports fairness of opportunity
  • ensuring women have equal access to skills development opportunities to enable them to succeed and their businesses to flourish
  • challenging existing cultural norms that view men as the heirs to agricultural businesses
  • developing an equality charter for Scottish agriculture that will be mainstreamed into all Scottish government agricultural and related policies.

Ms Campbell said: “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“Scottish agriculture cannot afford to be seen as the last bastion of sexism and outdated attitudes.”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.”

‘Male dominated’

Scottish rural economy secretary Fergus Ewing, who convened the taskforce in 2017, said it was “neither acceptable nor business savvy” for agriculture 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,” he said.

“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.”

NFU Scotland president and taskforce member Andrew McCornick said the report showed a way forward in getting more women to take up leadership roles in farming.

Gender balance

He said: “The training elements to be put in place will support women involved in farming to build their confidence, enhance their skills and develop their leadership abilities.

“The goal is that these women put themselves forward to join others already holding key leadership roles in Scottish agriculture.”

Mr McCornick added: “We have a good gender balance in our staff body and have a good gender balance at some of our events and meetings.

“However, I would like to see more women coming to the fore in the organisation by putting themselves forward for elected positions from branch through to regional and national level.”

Mr McCornick said NFU Scotland was committed to cultural change and was already actively reviewing its branch structures.

“We will be looking at the weaknesses in the current model and implementing what is required to ensure it is fit for the future,” he said.