Defra secretary Liz Truss has marked International Women’s Day by urging more women to get involved in the farming industry to help bring new ideas and skills.
Ms Truss said it was exciting that women now made up 28% of the British agricultural workforce and more than 25,000 women were now running farms.
“With agriculture often perceived as a male-dominated industry, it’s important we recognise the leading role women are playing,” she said.
Women on careers in agriculture
“I count myself lucky to have been brought up with the ethic that gender doesn’t matter – whether you are able to do the job is what counts. My mum was an only child, so our family was already well used to women in agriculture as she took on a full role on the farm.” Lynsey Martin – beef and sheep farmer
“Most people’s barriers are in their minds. You are treated differently as a female in a male-dominated industry and have to work harder to be treated equally. But farming is not unique in that respect.” Jo Franklin – partner in a family farm
“There are never two days the same in the farming sector and our British farmers work so hard to produce sufficient food to feed our nation. We need to continue to support our farmers by buying British-grown/reared food and ensure a prosperous future in UK agriculture.” Jessica Spencer – studying business management at Harper Adams
“Many people are unaware of what career opportunities are available in the sector. It is a good field to move into as there will always be a high demand for food, meaning better job security.” Beverly Dixon – HR director, G’s Growers
“Now I want to see the industry build on this and more women taking on jobs in farming.”
Ms Truss said the increasing number of women looking for a career in food and farming was positive.
Farming, like any industry, had to attract new talent and ideas and harness the skills of both young women and men.
How to encourage more female students and women to consider farming as a serious career choice will be the subject of a round-table discussion attended by Ms Truss on Tuesday (8 March).
However, universities and colleges are already reporting a rise in female students taking agricultural courses.
The latest Higher Education enrolment figures show 25% more women (1,115) than men (820) enrolled in agricultural-related courses last year.
The Royal Agricultural University, Cirencester, has seen a 44% increase in female students, while Harper Adams University, Shropshire, has recorded a doubling of the number of female students studying agriculture in the past five years.
In addition to hosting the roundtable, Ms Truss will also attend a Ladies in Agriculture networking event on Tuesday evening.