3. The Equality Charter for Scottish Agriculture
The Equality Charter for Scottish agriculture is a set of principles and actions developed by the Taskforce, for ensuring that everyone involved in an agricultural business has access to training, resources and career progression opportunities. The Charter sets out the key ways that businesses and organisations of any size in Scottish agriculture can work towards equality. It was created in order to raise awareness of the cultural barriers experienced by women and support positive change in the industry.
- There will be an Equality Charter for Scottish Agriculture and it will be mainstreamed into all Scottish Government agricultural and related policies. This will create a platform to support participating agricultural businesses and organisations in their commitment to achieving gender equality.
- By the end of 2022 all agricultural organisations, bodies, and businesses seeking to participate in formal Scottish Government agricultural stakeholder groups must evidence compliance with the Equality Charter.
- The pilot of the Equality Charter for Scottish Agriculture will be assessed by 2022 and the Scottish Government will consider if further intervention measures are needed to ensure the aims of the Charter are delivered.
- The Scottish Government will review the impact of the Equality Charter for Scottish Agriculture by the end of 2027 using the methodology and measures of success developed during the 2019/2020 pilot.
- By the end of 2021, the piloting of the Equality Charter for Scottish Agriculture must be completed. This will allow the Scottish Government to consider how best to mainstream the Charter into future policies and funding mechanisms.
- An Advisory Board for the Equality Charter for Scottish Agriculture should be established and include relevant experts to monitor Charter implementation.
Key Taskforce discussion and supporting research
The 2017 research found many instances of conscious and unconscious bias against women living or working in Scottish agriculture. This was recognised by men and women. Men spoke of women’s exclusion from farming organisations and how men would not vote for women to have positions. They described this as a cultural barrier:
"There’s no physical barriers but there’s an enormous cultural barrier. And folk would’nae vote for them”. ‘No that’s right! And I have good friends, good friends, that I know would have that kind of view and they’re nae terrible people, they’re good people but they just expect...that’s nae right you ken. I’m nae sure. It just...and it’s just culture, it changes with time." #1 Men focus group #2
Women also spoke of their role not being recognised, being overlooked and excluded. They recounted instances of being excluded from agricultural dinners and awards and being asked to leave meetings. There were also examples of women being in attendance but not feeling confident enough to ask questions. Women, even those who were confident, did not feel they were taken seriously:
"We are members and ...my husband is actually quite active in it. I steer clear because do you know what it’s possibly the one place where you’re not taken seriously. So... I don’t know and the NFU is the one place where I’ve thought I don’t feel like opening my mouth here.” #Focus group new entrants
The 2017 research recommended the use of quotas to address the poor representation of women. This was discussed at considerable length by the sub-group and the wider Taskforce. We concluded that this approach would not be the most effective way to create positive change and would not necessarily lead to a forward-looking agricultural industry. We agreed that it was more important to have a process of awareness raising, enabling buy-in from the industry. Accordingly, it was decided to review other models that have tried to enact organisational change to counter gender bias. Different models for businesses, universities and gender equality charters developed in other countries were reviewed. While these were informative, it was concluded that Scottish agriculture needed a tailored solution which would work for all sectors and business sizes. It was agreed that the impact of the Charter should be reviewed by the end of 2027 and if there was no cultural change evident at that point, then the need to enact quotas should be reconsidered by the Scottish Government.
We strongly support widely piloting the Equality Charter for Scottish Agriculture before it is mainstreamed across the industry. Reviewing the pilot of the Charter will enable practical measures to be refined prior to full rollout. Piloting will ensure best value of public money, delivering the best support measures to enable long-term cultural change and the delivery of the most user friendly and practical system possible for end users.
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