Women in Agriculture research: progress report - 2020-2021

This report provides a progress update on research conducted as part of the Women in Agriculture (WIA) programme between 2020 and 2021. It presents overall findings, current work and outlines future research planned for 2021-2022.

Executive summary


Women are an integral part of Scottish agriculture. They make an essential contribution to the industry, whether working on farms, crofts and small holdings; supporting their families; or through being involved in the wider rural economy.

The Scottish Agricultural Census 2021 shows that 40% of all working occupiers and spouses on Scottish farms are female, and 60% are male.[1]

The Women in Agriculture Taskforce was established by the Scottish Government in 2017, following research which showed that women face cultural barriers in the industry. The research suggested that this can lead to their work being undervalued and prevent their full participation. The Taskforce published its final report in 2019, which identified practical solutions to these issues and made a series of recommendations.[2]

This report provides a progress update on research conducted as part of the Women in Agriculture (WIA) programme between 2020 and 2021. The report sets out the context for this work, and presents a summary of completed, current and future research.


The research outlined in this report draws on a range of methods, including literature reviews, interviews, focus groups and surveys. The projects include commissioned work and research completed by analysts in the Rural and Environment Science and Analytical Services (RESAS) division of the Scottish Government. The projects have included a range of different participants, including women in island communities, rural childcare providers and women in mid-level or leadership positions in Scottish agriculture.

Overall findings

A range of research has been planned, carried out and commissioned as part of the Women in Agriculture programme during 2020-21. A timetable can be found on page 15.

A short summary of overall findings from across the research carried out between 2020 and 2021 is presented below. These findings are discussed in more detail on pages 12-14 and specific findings for each project can be found in Sections 1, 2 and 3.

1. The changing role of women in agriculture

The research points to positive changes for women in agriculture, including increased awareness of the role of women within the industry and the success of WIA training pilots in building connections between women in agriculture and developing their skills.

2. Connections between women in agriculture

The WIA programme has led to new connections between women in the industry, with pilots such as the 'Be Your Best Self' course enabling participants to create new support networks. Through these networks, women gain practical advice and encouragement.

3. The impact of training

Training delivered during 2020-2021 has had a range of positive impacts for women in agriculture, from participants feeling more optimistic about their future in the industry, to organisations learning about the benefits of diversity. Research to evaluate the 'Be Your Best Self' pilot has provided evidence of its long-term impact. Future training programmes will provide women in agriculture with further skills and opportunities.

4. Conversations around diversity

The research indicates the potential for wider discussions around diversity and inclusivity within Scottish agriculture. Wider research shows the intersections between gender and other aspects of identity, including race, class and disability. This will inform our approach to future work, including the development of a WIA leadership programme.

5. Challenges for women in agriculture

This research points to a range of challenges for women in agriculture, including cultural barriers and attitudes within the industry. This is also shaped by place, from a lack of training opportunities on islands to a shortage of flexible childcare in rural Scotland.

6. The impact of COVID-19

COVID-19 has impacted women in agriculture in both positive and negative ways. For example, whilst it has led to increased demand for rural childcare services, the move to online training and events has improved accessibility for women across Scotland.

7. The future

The research conducted during 2020-2021 points to opportunities to bring about further positive changes for women in agriculture at a number of levels, from providing training to individuals to practical actions for organisations within the industry. This will be taken forward through future training programmes and new commissioned research.


Email: socialresearch@gov.scot

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