This introduction sets out the context for this research, including recommendations made by the Women in Agriculture Taskforce on developing women's leadership skills following initial research into the barriers faced by women in the industry.
The Women in Agriculture Taskforce was established in 2017, following research commissioned by the Scottish Government which showed that women face cultural barriers in the industry (Women in farming and the agriculture sector: research report). Through its work, the Taskforce aims to ensure that women are better represented in agriculture and progress to more senior roles in sector bodies.
The 2017 research found that there is a lack of women in leadership positions in Scottish agriculture, and women are under-represented in leadership roles within national-level farming organisations in the industry. It also identified cultural barriers and significant unconscious gender bias where women are not expected to be in leadership positions. Women who took part in the research reported experiencing forms of exclusion and feeling intimidated in all male environments. They also identified barriers to leadership, including a lack of confidence, time and childcare.
The Women in Agriculture Taskforce's final report (2019) set out a recommendation that the Scottish Government develop a Women in Agriculture Development Programme (WiADP) to deliver training and mentoring to support women in agriculture to build their confidence, enhance their business skills, and develop their leadership abilities. This would lead to the creation of a cohort of women ready to further develop their businesses or take up leadership roles in Scottish agriculture.
Recent research into The Changing Role of Women in Farming, Crofting, and the Agricultural Industry: 2016-2021 by the James Hutton Institute suggests that there has been a 'change in the right direction' regarding the level of recruitment and the role of women in agricultural leadership. Participants felt that organisations are making efforts towards greater gender equality, for example by recruiting female board members. They also felt that it is important to have a diversity of people in leadership roles, including those from non-farming backgrounds. Male participants recognised the importance of normalising women's leadership within agriculture.
The research presented in this report was carried out in 2020-21 to inform the development of a leadership programme for women in agriculture. It comprised an evidence review and 6 interviews with women in mid-level and leadership roles in agriculture or relevant sectors such as construction and transport.
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