Women in Agriculture Taskforce: summary report

A summary version of the full recommendations of the Women in Agriculture Taskforce final report.

Women in Agriculture Taskforce

Our Vision

Women have always been an integral part of Scottish agriculture. Our industry could not survive without the contributions of women, whether working on farms, crofts and small holdings; supporting their families; or being involved in the wider rural economy.

However, the research shows that women's work can be undervalued, downplayed, or simply unseen.

We believe that Scotland's economy could be even stronger if women are enabled and encouraged to lead, to learn, and live to their full potential in the agricultural industry.

In our work, we have sought to shine a light on structural, systemic and cultural inequalities that are holding back women, and therefore our industry. We have made a number of practical recommendations, from the far-reaching and bold, to the immediate and pragmatic.

We have made recommendations in the areas of Leadership, Training, Succession, New Entrants, Childcare, Health and Safety, and Crofting, and are advocating a new Equality Charter for Scottish Agriculture.

The changes that we advocate seek to make real change and to challenge assumptions and myths still at large in the agricultural industry. We know that cultural change takes a long time. We are not expecting radical effects overnight - but it is clear that we must start now, and with some urgency.

The survival of our industry depends on making the most of every resource that we have at our disposal. Elevating the position, role and voice of women is critical to making this happen. We are all responsible for this change, and we will all benefit from it.

It's time for women in agriculture to take their place, and for industry and organisations to level the playing field.

Who We Are

The Taskforce was co-chaired by Fergus Ewing, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy, and Joyce Campbell, a successful hill farmer. The other members of the Taskforce bring their skills and expertise from across the agricultural industry. Their biographies are available here:

Taskforce Remit

The Scottish Government commissioned research in 2016 to better understand the position of women in agriculture in Scotland. When the First Minister launched that report in 2017, she also established the Women in Agriculture Taskforce.

The First Minister acknowledged the exclusionary nature of the agricultural industry and the issues of fairness and equality it presents for women. She also identified how the industry can limit itself, consciously or unconsciously, by excluding talented and highly motivated women. The Taskforce were given the responsibility of developing solutions to reduce inequality for women in Scottish agriculture, to make the industry fairer, more diverse, and stronger for it.

Although a range of governments and charitable bodies across the globe have commissioned research on the position of women in agriculture, this was the first time a government established a Taskforce to identify practical solutions to issues facing women in agriculture.

Summary of Our Final Report

The Taskforce's recommendations are structured around seven key themes: Leadership, Equality Charter for Scottish Agriculture, Training, Childcare in Rural Areas, Succession, New Entrants, Health and Safety and Crofting. What follows is a short summary of our Final Report, stating what is recommended in relation to each theme.

1. Leadership: At present there are few women in positions of leadership in Scottish agriculture. Cultural barriers are significant. It is known from research in other sectors that when leadership is diverse, the economic performance of the industry increases. Gender bias in the agricultural industry means that women are not expected to hold leadership positions and are unlikely to be successful in elections. This has led to women being reluctant to stand for leadership positions in the industry. The Taskforce recommends:

  • Key Scottish agricultural organisations and businesses must undertake diversity and unconscious bias training to specifically support cultural change and address the imbalance in representation of women in their leadership groups.
  • Steps must be taken by the Scottish agricultural industry to develop the skills, confidence and knowledge of women to secure leadership roles in agricultural organisations, ensuring they are perceived as assets to the boards they sit on and the organisations they represent.
  • The Scottish Government will develop a Women in Agriculture Development Programme (WiADP). This should be an accessible Programme that delivers training and mentoring to support women in agriculture to build their confidence, enhance their business skills and develop their leadership abilities. The Programme should be delivered through three specific but independent courses: personal development, knowing your business, and leadership development. This should lead to a cohort of women ready to further develop their businesses or take up leadership roles within Scottish agriculture.

2. Equality Charter for Scottish Agriculture: The barriers facing women in agriculture are cultural and are often invisible. The Taskforce considered whether quotas might be the best way forward but concluded that, for now, the development of an Equality Charter with buy-in from the agricultural industry, was a more positive approach. The Equality Charter for Scottish Agriculture is a set of principles and actions that enable all individuals in a business or organisation participating in the Charter, to get access to training, resources and career progression opportunities. The Taskforce recommends:

  • An Equality Charter for Scottish Agriculture will be established and 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 for Scottish Agriculture.
  • 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.

3. Training: Training is essential for success in agriculture. Some women do not access the training they need as they feel it is targeted at men as the "primary producer", and can feel self-conscious about taking part. The Taskforce recommends:

  • 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.
  • The Monitor Farm Programme must encourage and enable women to participate fully in Monitor Farm activities.
  • 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 agricultural 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.

4. Childcare in Rural Areas: Access to childcare in rural areas is a key barrier to women's participation in the agricultural industry. Formal and informal networks are commonly used with a heavy reliance on extended family members. Rural childcare provision needs to be flexible to accommodate the diverse and seasonal needs of the industry. The Taskforce recommends:

  • The Scottish Government and Local Authorities must increase the availability and access to formal and informal childcare in rural areas, to better enable women in the Scottish agricultural industry to engage in training, networking and to develop business opportunities.
  • The Scottish Government and Local Authorities must consider how childcare services can be more closely tailored to suit demand in rural areas and costed accordingly.

5. Succession: Succession presents real problems for women's entry into agriculture. The assumption by some that a son will inherit the family farm rather than a daughter, is the most significant cultural barrier to equality. This is a cultural rather than a legal issue, reinforced by the lack of future business and succession planning in the agricultural industry. The Taskforce recommends:

  • Agricultural organisations and businesses must undertake more comprehensive and early planning for succession.
  • The agricultural industry, especially at farm, croft and small holding level, must challenge the existing culture that automatically views men as the heirs to the business.

6. New Entrants: The 2017 research showed that when men and women enter agriculture together more equal gender relations exist. Supporting new entrants is an important way to bring more women and a greater gender balance into the Scottish agricultural industry. The Taskforce recommends:

  • The Scottish Government, its agencies and major agricultural organisations must promote and encourage innovative routes to access land and capital, to overcome recognised barriers for women new entrants.
  • The Scottish Government, its agencies and major agricultural organisations, including education providers, must address the skills gap facing some women new entrants to agriculture in the areas of business skills and confidence.

7. Health and Safety: Agriculture is the most dangerous industry in the UK, with the highest number of fatalities each year. It is dangerous for all family members including children. Many women highlighted that they sometimes take risks to prove they are as able to farm as men. The Taskforce recommends:

  • The Health and Safety Executive and Farm Safety Partnership Scotland must raise awareness of the health and safety risks to women, and how to reduce the risk of accidents on farms, crofts, and small holdings. Practical solutions must be provided and communicated effectively.
  • Manufacturers of agricultural equipment must develop equipment which will improve women's safety.
  • All educational agricultural courses must include an accredited module covering safety on farms, crofts and small holdings.
  • The Health and Safety Executive should visit rural primary schools across Scotland to educate children about safety on farms, crofts and small holdings.

8. Crofting: The crofting sector is more gender balanced, and more women are the principal crofter than in farming, with 14% of women the named crofter. However, 66% of tenant crofts are run by a woman and her spouse. Tenanted crofts can only be in the name of one tenant and typically, for a married couple, the man is often the named tenant. Concern was raised about women's access to the croft house in cases of divorce. The Taskforce recommends:

  • The Crofting Commission must address the perception and potential practice that crofting legislation disadvantages women, particularly in cases of divorce.

Concluding Remarks

The Taskforce considered how to increase representation and equality for women in Scottish agriculture. We also reflected on some of the gendered assumptions underpinning how the Scottish Government gathers agricultural data and we have advised that these be reviewed.

We found that a number of areas that present barriers for women are also broader issues for the future success of the whole industry; most particularly new entrants, succession, and health and safety. These cross-cutting issues are examined further in the Final Report. The Taskforce recommends:

  • The Scottish Government will review the gender assumptions underpinning how it collects agricultural data.
  • The Scottish Government will undertake a full review of the impact of the recommendations contained within the Final Report of the Women in Agriculture Taskforce by the end of 2027.

We have aimed to be both ambitious and realistic in our recommendations. We believe that the agricultural industry will be stronger when women take their rightful place in it. We expect to see some significant changes over the next five years, yet we know that other types of progress may take longer. The Scottish Government is committed to giving gender equality in agriculture the continued attention it deserves and needs, for the overall well-being of the industry.



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