MORAWA farmer and Nuffield scholar Katrina Sasse spoke to a receptive male-dominated audience at the recent Farm Machinery & Industry Association (FMIA) annual general meeting and conference.
Her comments on the challenges and opportunities for women in agriculture sparked a positive response from dealers keen to embrace women in all facets of machinery dealerships.
According to Ms Sasse, speaking “through the lens of a daughter in farming”, daughters have an image problem.
“They’re seen as daddy’s little girl who would make a farmer’s wife and be a mother, but not a real farmer,” she said.
“From birth, girls are not socialised to become farmers and are pigeon-holed into a stereotype.
“The perception is that boys are born farmers and girls will marry, so who can blame you for asking: ‘Do you have any sons to come back to the farm?’
“It’s an outrageous assumption because we need gender diversity in agriculture and for the family farm to be gender-neutral, where daughters get the opportunities to tinker with their dads and be taught about machinery and the farming enterprise.”
Ms Sasse gender equality for women included:
To receive a fair-go;
To have people talk business with them;
To take an equal share of responsibilities;
To be involved in decision-making;
To remain flexible and able to manage domestic and family responsibilities as a team.
She questioned whether there was an unconscious bias in the industry, citing an example of a female sales person struggling with the (male) perception that she doesn’t know what she’s talking about.
One dealer replied to that remark saying he had a female employee from a farm who was very competent with product knowledge.
Other dealers also commented about the competency of females they employ and expressed a willingness to employ more females, including as precision ag specialists.
Ms Sasse said her overall aim was to build awareness about women in agriculture and break down stereotypes.