Women in agriculture - implementing equality commitments: research report

Main findings from an evidence review and case-study research carried out to explore effective ways of bringing about greater gender equality within Scottish agricultural businesses. The research was designed to gather evidence on gender equality initiatives and their effectiveness within business of different sizes in male-dominated industries.

2 Research Design

This chapter provides a summary of the research design.

Stage One of the research involved an evidence review of gender equality literature and focused on identifying equality initiatives and evidence of their effectiveness.

Stage Two involved collecting case study data from six UK-based companies in male-dominated industries. Across all case studies, 36 semi-structured interviews were conducted with managers and women employed in male-dominated occupations. Where available, company documents and policies were also reviewed.

Stage One of the research involved a literature review of academic peer-reviewed articles, policy reports and working papers. The review had a particular emphasis on identifying gender equality initiatives and evidence of their effectiveness. A Rapid Evidence Assessment (REA) was carried out with the search limited to peer-reviewed academic publications in English and readily accessible online. Table 2 in Appendix 1 summarises the research framework and provides further information about the search parameters and key databases used.

Stage Two comprised short case studies of six UK-based companies. Case-study methods are helpful in understanding the process, practice and effectiveness of gender equality initiatives and can offer genuine insight through analysing rich data from multiple sources in ‘micro’ organisational settings.

The case study design involved finding companies that were comparable to agriculture. Therefore, the focus was on small and medium-sized enterprises in male-dominated sectors that have structures and the budget to implement changes. Companies were identified through previous research contacts, an Internet search, or were identified as signatories of an industry Equality Charter or Pledge. After an initial focus on small to medium-sized enterprises, a lack of accessible examples led to the inclusion of companies with fewer than 1000 employees in the case studies, as outlined in Table 1.

The case studies captured the perspectives of 36 different stakeholders through semi-structured interviews. This included individuals involved in implementing equality commitments such as senior, mid-level managers and human resource (HR) managers where these existed. Topics covered included: the case for advancing gender equality; details of gender equality actions; the implementation process; the monitoring, evaluation and impact of these actions; and future plans. The research also incorporated the perspective of women working in male-dominated occupations to evaluate the effectiveness of equality actions. Interview guides can be found in Appendix 3.

The fieldwork was shaped by the public health regulations arising from the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and, due to ongoing restrictions on face-to-face research interviews, were conducted online on Microsoft Teams. Semi-structured interviews were conducted between February and June 2022 and lasted between 20 and 50 minutes. All interviews were digitally recorded (where consent was given). A participant information sheet and consent form were shared prior to interview (see Appendix 2).

Company documents, policies and accessible administrative data were also collected where available, alongside any relevant information on the business’s gender equality initiatives available in the public domain.

Table 1: Description of case study organisations and interview participants
Sector Head office location Organization size Number and Type of participant
Aquaculture Highlands, Scotland SME (<250) 3
All Women: 2 HR, 1 director/working in male dominated occupation
Construction North, England SME (<250) 11
4 Management (1 male), 2 HR and training, 5 women working in male dominated occupations
Engineering South, England Large Employer (250+) 8
All women: 2 HR, 6 management/working in male dominated occupations
Engineering South, England SME (<250) 4
2 Directors (1 male), 2 women working in male dominated occupations
Engineering North, England Large employer (250+) 5
1 Director (male), 3 HR, 1 woman working in male dominated occupation
Engineering Central Belt, Scotland SME (<250) 5
All woman: 1 Director, 1 HR, 3 women working in male dominated occupation


Email: socialresearch@gov.scot

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