Women shine brightly in agriculture

Women shine brightly in agriculture

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Farm Weekly journalists Shannon Beattie (left) and Mollie Tracey.

Farm Weekly journalists Shannon Beattie (left) and Mollie Tracey.

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While Australia's agricultural industry still has a way to go in achieving gender equity, it is happening.

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WHEN you picture a farmer in Australia or an agricultural corporate leader, what does that person look like?

Chances are you'd picture a man, because the majority of people around a boardroom table in agriculture are still men, as is the typical stereotype of a farmer.

It makes sense as up until 1994, women were not recognised in Australian law as farmers, but 'support workers' to their male counterparts.

So being acknowledged as a farmer or a leader in agriculture didn't happen overnight, it has taken decades for women to even get a seat at the boardroom table and there's still a long way to go until women are equally represented.

Opening up opportunities for women in agriculture is not only for the purpose of gender equity, but also for economic sustainability of primary industries.

Research analyst Tess Marslen stated in a 2015 paper for the Global Food and Water Crises Research Program that Australia had fallen behind other developed countries in its recognition and support for women farmers.

"Currently, the Australian agricultural sector is facing challenges from the environment and declining terms of trade," Ms Marslen wrote.

"Women make up half of the agricultural workforce and represent a large part of our next generation of workers, managers, researchers and decision-makers.

"It is therefore necessary, as a matter of urgency and for the sake of the sustainable future of our agricultural industry, that women's empowerment is taken seriously.

"The government needs to initiate structural changes that encourage agricultural organisations and agribusinesses to prioritise women's involvement at all levels."

While Australia's agricultural industry still has a way to go in achieving gender equity, it is happening.

In honour of International Day of Rural Women, Farm Weekly is sharing stories of rural women who have cracked the glass ceiling, risen above gender discrimination, powered through tough times with resilience and tenacity to hold their families together and become leaders in their communities and within the Western Australian agricultural industry - keep an out eye for these stories in coming days - as well as in this week's print edition.

These are the type of women who are making agriculture a better industry to work in for future generations - for women and men alike.

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