Background and Introduction
Scotland’s farming and agriculture sector is a thriving industry with potential to deliver more. The Women in Agriculture Taskforce, established by the Scottish Government in response to the Women in Farming and the Agriculture Sector research report (June 2017), is considering the research recommendations and aims to deliver medium to long term sustainable cultural change by providing practical solutions. As part of this they are working towards providing an environment where the industry can more fully realise its potential by recognising and supporting everyone who contributes to it.
The research provided the first baseline understanding of Scottish women working in farming and the agriculture sector. Its main findings and recommendations highlighted a number of key issues for the agricultural industry and rural Scotland, including a number of cultural behaviours which can have a negative or limiting impact upon women in agriculture.
The research provides insight into the real barriers facing women in the farming and agriculture sector. Lived experience of those interviewed confirmed both conscious and unconscious bias experienced in Scottish agriculture. The cultural norms such as male inheritance of the farm and other such customs and practices have been shown to encourage the assumption that a female will not be required to become familiar with the workings of the farm business.
A growing body of research, including studies conducted by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development ( OECD) and the International Monetary Fund ( IMF), demonstrates that equality and cohesion are good for the economy, as well as for individuals. Gender equality has been highlighted as a personal aim by the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon. She has particularly identified the need to press forward for women’s opportunities to participate in Scottish life and employment.
It is generally accepted that farming, and the agricultural sector as a whole, is an area in which women’s contributions can be overlooked, with a poor record of women holding industry leadership positions and thus influencing roles. This, by today’s standards, is not only failing to advance equality; but by excluding a major participating group from decisions which will shape the future of the industry, also depriving the sector of a rich source of opportunity.
It was with this in mind that the collaboration of Newcastle University and the James Hutton Institute was commissioned by the Scottish Government in 2016 to produce the Women in Farming and the Agriculture Sector report. The aim of the research was to establish a baseline position on women in farming and the agriculture sector and to identify barriers and opportunities to inform policy making.
The Women in Farming and the Agriculture Sector research looked to learn more about consideration of women’s entry into farming and farming careers; their participation in on-farm and off-farm work; and barriers to women taking up leadership roles in agriculture. The research project investigated women’s role as per the following categories: daily life; aspirations; career paths; leadership; comparative analysis with other family businesses; safety; and succession and inheritance.
The Women in Agriculture Taskforce seeks to build on this research and this publication illustrates progress to date and our future programme of work.