Study examines changing role of women in agriculture

Dr Lee-Ann Sutherland.
Dr Lee-Ann Sutherland.

New research released this week by the James Hutton Institute (JHI) also found that moving to the virtual world saves time on travel and avoids childcare difficulties.

Additionally, the research, which was linked to the Scottish Government’s Women in Agriculture initiative, found that the pandemic also provided a ‘legitimizing’ window of opportunity for greater involvement of women in certain farming and farming activities, the female family members often replacing staff who were prevented from traveling due to lockdowns.

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However, all was far from good news during the pandemic, with focus group participants involved in the research pointing out that home-schooled children had a significant impact on their ability to do their jobs and maintain productivity levels. , adding that this prevented them from participating. in certain activities on the farm.

Women also reported safety concerns related to caring for children while participating in many agricultural tasks, while the mental impact of the pandemic on children and youth was raised as a concern.

“The experience of Covid-19 movement restrictions has shown that there are very feasible ways to ensure that women can participate in more activities in the agricultural industry,” said Dr Lee-Ann Sutherland, Research Leader in the Social, Economic and Geographic Sciences Group at JHI. , and co-author of the report, who added: “It is important for the vitality of the agricultural sector that these lessons are transferred into the future.

The report ‘The Changing Role of Women in Farming, Crofting, and the Agricultural Industry: 2016-2021’ also brought together views and experiences on gender equality and diversity more broadly in Scottish agriculture, by Building on background research conducted by the University of Newcastle and the Scottish Government commissioned JHI in 2016.

The aim of this latter project was to understand the impact of the recommendations of the Scottish Government’s Women in Agriculture Task Force, and the influence of other initiatives that have supported ‘women in agriculture’, on the experiences of women working on farms and in the agricultural industry in Scotland. . The project involved the people who participated in the 2016 study, including farmers, smallholders and other representatives of the agricultural industry.

Dr Annie McKee, who worked on the follow-up study, said: ‘Participants welcomed the recommendations of the Scottish Government’s Women in Agriculture Task Force, noting that they had produced results. tangible, including successful training programs and support for women’s practical practices. training in agriculture. However, obstacles remain to the recruitment and participation of women in managerial positions in Scottish agriculture. These barriers include cultural assumptions, presumably unconscious attitudes and biases. “

Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs Mairi Gougeon said the report underlines the importance of ensuring equal opportunities to make Scottish agriculture a more resilient and economically sustainable industry that would help women realize their potential and support business innovation.

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