Women in Agriculture 'Be Your Best Self' 2020-2021 pilot evaluation report

This report outlines the main findings of an evaluation of the ‘Be Your Best Self’ training pilot 2020-2021, funded by Scottish Government through the Women in Agriculture Development Programme.

4. Main findings

What they wanted to get out of the course

Most interviewees said they hoped to build their confidence and meet other women in agriculture by taking part in the course. Others wanted to find a clearer direction or progress in their careers. Whilst those attending the course were from a range of backgrounds, they felt they had the same aims and a shared ‘lack of confidence’.

When asked if the course had been what they expected, a number of interviewees said they had not realised it would have such a personal focus. Despite this, most stated that they have gained a lot from the course, with one participant saying that it has had a more ‘lasting impact’ than other, more practical farming courses she has done.

What they have gained from the course

The course has had a range of positive impacts for interviewees, from building their confidence in their skills and strengths, to enabling them to refocus, explore new opportunities and develop their roles on the farm or at work. It gave interviewees a chance for self-reflection, and to think about others’ behaviour and how to work with them.

The course has built participants’ sense of identity and self-worth. It has made many interviewees feel more sure of themselves, and their role in agriculture. This was the case for women from a range of backgrounds, from younger women and new entrants to those who have grown up working on family farms.

Changes to their role on the farm or at work

Women who took part in interviews have been able to develop their role on the farm and at work. The course has given them the confidence to: play a bigger role in decision-making, put forward their ideas, make decisions about their own business, try new activities on the farm or apply for new jobs and further training.

The course also introduced them to practical tools, which many have used to take a more active role in business planning, from diversification to getting jobs on the farm ‘done’. This has led them to feel more motivated and focused, and suggests the wider impact the course will have on women’s roles in agriculture.

Connections to other women in agriculture

The course has enabled attendees to build strong connections with other women in agriculture. The majority of interviewees were still in touch with other women in their cohort six to twelve months after finishing the course. Through groups set up on social media, members of each cohort has been able to ask questions, share practical advice, farming knowledge or general support and encouragement.

The course brought together groups of women of different ages and backgrounds, who were able to share their knowledge with each other and learn from others’ experience. This has particularly benefitted younger women. Despite differences in their situations, attendees were able to ‘relate’ to each other. Interviewees noted that they felt they could be ‘open’ and share their mistakes or concerns.

Interviewees spoke about the benefits of connecting to other women in agriculture, who understand what working in the industry is like. The course has helped some of the women to develop wider connections with other farmers in their area.

Feedback on the course

During interviews, participants also gave feedback on specific aspects of the course. The one-to-one meetings were important, as they made participants feel comfortable before taking part. They gave attendees an opportunity to talk about what they wanted to get from it, and to identify specific issues. Several interviewees spoke about the benefit of being put into smaller groups during the course, as it gave them a chance to get to know other women in their cohort, and made it easier for those who were less confident to take part.

COVID-19 and other challenges

The interviews highlighted some of the challenges experienced by women in agriculture during the COVID-19 pandemic. Whilst difficult to measure, this has also shaped the impact of the course. For example, one interviewee noted that it was difficult to maintain a ‘positive mind-set’ after the course due to ongoing restrictions.

Others had struggled to balance childcare, home-schooling and their work on the farm during this time, but stated that the online groups were an important form of support.

Whilst interviewees had largely positive experiences of doing the course online, with some noting that this made it more accessible for women living in rural and island areas, several felt they would have made stronger connections in-person.

Next steps

The majority of the women interviewed stated that the course has had a positive impact on their plans for the future. In many cases, it has led them to re-focus and re-prioritise, from changing jobs to taking up new opportunities.

All interviewees felt more confident about applying for further training to gain new agricultural skills or develop their careers. The research suggests that the course has increased their confidence, resilience and motivation. It has given them more options and made many feel ‘more optimistic’ about their future in agriculture.


Email: socialresearch@gov.scot

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