Women in Agriculture Taskforce: final report

The final report of the Women in Agriculture Taskforce.

4. Training

To ensure the success of both women and men in the agricultural industry, training is essential. Enabling and supporting more women to access training will help to counter current agricultural industry norms and unconscious bias where men are identified as ‘the primary producer’, and therefore the primary individual in need of training.


  • Rural Training Platform: The Scottish Government will support the proposal set out in the Skills Action Plan for Rural Scotland to develop a suitable digital platform and resource detailing existing education and training provision. This will support a collaborative approach to training provision among partners by 2021. Any resource should also be made available as a smartphone application.
  • Agricultural industry influencers, key sector groups and training providers should encourage people, particularly women, to think about what skills they might have to offer, and what market there is for those skills. Identifying and encouraging potential future women trainers must be an integral part of training courses.
  • All agricultural training providers must make their training accessible and inclusive and should use the guidance note developed by the Women in Agriculture Taskforce. Training providers must be encouraged to complete unconscious bias training.
  • The Monitor Farm Programme must encourage and enable women to participate fully in Monitor Farm activities.

Specific Actions

  • The Scottish Government will ensure that a Rural Training Platform will take full account of the issues around training faced by women living or working in Scottish agriculture.
  • The Monitor Farm Programme should aim to increase the role of women (e.g. through advertising, increasing numbers of female facilitators, participants, engaging female speakers) and establish at least one further women-led monitor farm.
  • Any agricultural industry-related training provider in receipt of public funding should be required, as a condition of that funding, to make their training accessible and inclusive, to complete unconscious bias training, and to collect and share data about how they are achieving accessibility and inclusivity.
  • A short-term Scottish Government programme should be put in place to financially incentivise the provision of women-only practical courses at a local level, in order to demonstrate demand and viability, and to show commitment to the issue. Any providers receiving this funding will be required to collect and share a broad range of data for analysis of demand and participation, and to report on the future learning needs of participants.
  • The Scottish Government should better utilise Rural Payments and Inspections Division (RPID) Area Office staff, to provide guidance and support to women on the topics of funding, grants and training.

Key Taskforce discussion and supporting research

Training was a major topic of Taskforce discussions. In the 2017 research, less than half of respondents, all of whom were women, agreed that they could access all the knowledge they needed to develop their role on their farms. One quarter of respondents indicated that they would not feel comfortable at current training events because the events are primarily attended by men. The 2017 research also identified several hundred women who were interested in learning business skills (i.e. completing grant applications, accounting, entrepreneurship, etc.), livestock care skills and large machinery driving.

The 2017 research demonstrated that social barriers and lack of confidence are limiting for many women, particularly if they married into agriculture:

"Well I always say when I got married and came into farming that I would love to have gone onto a women’s course for farmers to prepare me, to show me, to tell me do you know what I mean? I would feel intimidated to go to the farming college, I think. It would give me more confidence as well and a bit of knowledge. These men have done it since they were born just about and they know what they’re doing, and they presume that women know. And they know all the terminology and you’re going ‘hey what?’ "
#Woman married to farmer, Orkney

Women raised on farms are also not necessarily learning skills during childhood:

"Growing up, Dad would never give the jobs like ploughing and sowing and stuff it’s always been the kind of basic level…I was always carting in the bales rather than… baling them." #Women in agricultural industry focus group

The Taskforce consider that providing training for women in an environment where they feel comfortable will provide additional skills for Scotland’s agricultural businesses. This will give women the confidence to take on leadership roles within their businesses and in agricultural organisations.

During our work, we found that the agricultural training landscape in Scotland is fragmented and it is not always obvious where to find required training. It can also be very difficult to find out what is available, particularly in remote rural areas. Both of these issues affect all potential training users. While large providers such as SRUC, Lantra, and machinery rings may be visible and well-known within the industry, it is much harder to find smaller, local, non-accredited courses.

Women are often looking for local training that will fit around family and work responsibilities and which can also provide networking opportunities for them, to build confidence and overcome the isolation inherent in agriculture. Providing training to women is also important for addressing health and safety issues discussed further in Section 7 of this Report.

An innovative digital hub such as the proposed Rural Training Platform will make it much easier for people involved in agriculture to find information on training that is suitable, local and relevant to them. The online Platform could also be made available as a smartphone application. It should contain both accredited and non-accredited training opportunities, to ensure that users can find the most appropriate course for their needs at that time. Ideally, the Platform should be interactive, enabling feedback and recommendations and allow data gathering about preferences, requirements and experiences which will identify gaps in skills and provision. This in turn will help trainers, both existing and prospective, to tailor their approaches to industry demands.

Training providers should consider caring responsibilities, especially childcare, and inclusivity issues for remote rural areas when planning provision. All trainers must ensure their courses are accessible and inclusive, including recruiting female trainers, offering women-only training on topics which are traditionally male dominated (like chainsaw and large equipment operation), and including images of women in promotional material, to ensure that it is clear that women can and should attend.

There is a lack of rural trainers across Scotland and particularly shortages of women trainers. It is vital to have trainers ready and willing to deliver both accredited and non-accredited training at a local level. It is also important to utilise people across Scotland who have skills that others would like to learn. A flexible and dynamic way of tapping into this potential resource will be essential; options for this could include promoting the Rural Training Platform to potential new trainers and showcasing people who already provide training but may not be considered a typical trainer. Unconscious bias training is a vital tool for all agricultural organisations to help them to identify, reflect and alter practices which implicitly or explicitly exclude women and minority groups. Training providers should also complete this training to better advertise and assess course demand.

The Taskforce extensively debated the pros and cons of women-only training. There is clear evidence that there is currently a demand for more women-only courses in the agricultural industry and for there to be an increase in women trainers. We consider this a vital area and one where real progress can be made to change culture and enable women to make the most of their skills and opportunities. We asked the Farm Advisory Service (FAS) to test the principle that women would welcome women-only training. In 2018, FAS delivered a series of women-only events which were over-subscribed (attended by 248 women). The women-only events run by the Scottish Crofting Federation were also well attended and very positively received.

Evidence from some providers suggests that they are not aware of demand and are therefore reluctant to run women-only courses. Women currently make up a very small number of attendees at physical training courses (e.g. chainsaw operating training) and therefore it may be assumed that there is no demand. This is not the case.

Training courses for women should be spread over the whole of Scotland and incorporate the principles of making agricultural training more accessible and inclusive for all. We consider there is a need for skills training to operate in conjunction with courses on confidence-building. The courses should be provided through a variety of approaches dependent on the subject required. In particular, the Scottish Monitor Farms network could support the delivery of targeted training for women on specific practical subjects, which is why we recommend that this network be used in the future to support training activity for women. RPID Area Office staff should be used to provide guidance and support to women on specific topics, such as funding and grant applications. This resource can also be used to promote opportunities for women and steer them towards locally available training.

We consider that women-only training courses are a short-term solution to increase the skills and confidence of Scottish women in agriculture, enabling them to fulfil their potential. It will be important that the provision of women-only courses is accompanied with data analysis around course demand and future learning requirements of participants, which will help to assess and demonstrate viability of courses and future requirements.


Email: womeninagriculture@gov.scot

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