Women in ag face tokenism and sexism, new report finds

A report carried out by the Scottish government has found that women in agriculture still face regular sexism, gender bias and tokenism.

The Women in Agriculture: Leadership programme development research study assessed the needs of women within the sector, with a view to developing a programme specifically tailored to promoting more women to leadership positions.

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Key findings of the report showed that many women in agriculture have to “use humour as a way of dealing with sexism” and that these “persistent forms of gender bias” have a detrimental effect on women working in the industry.

This underlying sexism was described as “corrosive”, with one interviewee saying: “There is a perception that ‘oh, she’s female…she’s going to go off on maternity leave’. I’ve heard that articulated in a boardroom situation.”


The report also highlighted that many women face a barrier when it comes to gaining the respect of male counterparts.

One woman said: “In agriculture… if you go into any position as a man, it’s assumed that you can do it until you prove otherwise. I think when you go in as a woman, it’s assumed that you probably can’t do it, until you prove otherwise.”

While gender bias and stereotyping have hindered women from progressing to leadership roles, the study found that, for those who had participated in leadership and development programmes, there was a consensus that these had instilled greater confidence, skills and networking opportunities. 

Gemma Cooper, head of policy at NFU Scotland said: “The report clearly identifies areas for further work, and NFU Scotland will continue to work with all Women in Agriculture partners to enhance the opportunities for all women working within Scottish agriculture. 

“There is a wealth of talent, both already within the sector and as yet undiscovered.” 

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