Publication - Research and analysis

Acknowledging women in agriculture: taskforce progress report

Published: 21 Jun 2018
Agriculture and Rural Economy Directorate
Part of:
Farming and rural

Progress report of the Women in Agriculture Taskforce.

Acknowledging women in agriculture: taskforce progress report
Women in Leadership

Women in Leadership

The Taskforce is focused on the following recommendation:

“The establishment of a Talent Bank of suitably qualified women for farming positions (identifying their skills and interests, offering training opportunities, and encouraging farming organisations to recruit from this pool when positions became available).”

Key Research Findings

  • Women play a major role in Scottish agriculture and across the full spectrum of farming activities.
  • 33% of farm operators in Scotland are women.
  • Despite this, women are significantly under-represented in terms of office bearers, board positions and other senior roles. This includes the elected leadership of a number of our influential agricultural organisations.

Feedback from a large proportion of those surveyed by the researchers expressed a strong desire for this last part to change and to see more women in such leadership roles, with approximately one third expressing an interest in taking up leadership roles themselves.

In response, the Taskforce is developing a strategy to encourage greater involvement of women in leadership positions, make better use of all our best people and more accurately reflect the role women play in agriculture.

This will ultimately be of benefit not just to women but also crucially to the industry as a whole, with the benefits of diverse boards, businesses and leaders being well documented.

Extensive research has shown that in order to make a material difference to their culture and gender diversity, an organisation or board should aim to have at least one third of their numbers comprising women. The industry has some way to go.

An individual is selected for a role because they have a set of skills, knowledge and experience required for the post. However, there are very few women in leadership roles when there are undoubtedly women more than capable to take on such roles. Why is this?

We will all have some unconscious bias, if not conscious bias to some degree – often borne out of our environment or experiences, or because of traditional ways of working. Both research and anecdotal evidence show that often the process of identifying prospective candidates for leadership positions is dependent on “who we know that we could approach”, thus potentially missing out on a wider pool of talent.

The Taskforce recognises that there are barriers to women taking up leadership roles. The nature and structure of organisations operating within agriculture is diverse - in some cases, directors or office bearers may be elected by a wider membership or drawn from a base of regional organisations. Roles are often undertaken on a voluntary basis, and therefore compete with other business or domestic time constraints.

Key therefore to the success of achieving greater representation of women in leadership positions must be accepting that the change may be challenging to deliver, but must ultimately be achievable and sustainable in the long term and be to the benefit of both women and the businesses/organisations involved.

For these reasons, the Taskforce believes that the promotion and adoption of a multi-faceted approach involving the Taskforce, women in the sector and farming organisations is the most appropriate way in which to achieve greater diversity and ultimately help facilitate the effectiveness and resilience of our industry going forward.

The following workplan components have been identified in the design and delivery of the Women in Agriculture Development Programme.

Identification of Suitably Qualified Women

  • Identify existing qualified women and work with them to ensure they are ready to take on leadership roles in the industry.

Establish a Development Programme for Women

  • Design and delivery of a development programme aimed at both encouraging women to consider leadership roles and unlocking the potential talent of women to secure office bearer roles, leadership roles and senior positions in Scotland’s farming and agriculture sector through structured training and support.

Engagement with Farming, Agriculture Businesses and Organisations

  • An engagement strategy aimed at senior influencers in the sector to consider using the network of existing qualified women for leadership positions and encourage consideration and use of the Women in Agriculture Development Programme as part of their recruitment and retention strategy.