January 23, 2018

Barriers to women in agriculture challenged during presentation at Scottish Parliament

Evidence of significant barriers to women’s careers in Scottish agriculture has been presented at the Scottish Parliament by social researchers from Newcastle University and the James Hutton Institute.

The presentation, sponsored by MSPs Emma Harper and Gail Ross, featured an introduction by co-chairs of the Women in Agriculture taskforce, Cabinet Secretary Fergus Ewing and Joyce Campbell (Armadale Farm), and highlighted recent taskforce activities and outcomes of research undertaken for the Scottish Government on the subject. 

Dr Lee-Ann Sutherland, a social researcher at the James Hutton Institute’s Social, Economic and Geographical Sciences group in Aberdeen and co-author of the Women in Agriculture report, said that even though women are an asset to farms, bringing ‘fresh eyes’ to the way things have traditionally been done, there is still evidence of women being under-represented in the leadership of farming organisations.

“Agriculture in the UK is facing major challenges in the next few years – why would you leave half of our best players on the bench?”, Dr Sutherland asked.

Newcastle University’s Professor Sally Shortall, leader of the research project, commented: “For women in agriculture it is less about a glass ceiling, than a sticky floor – women are busy juggling on and off-farm work, childcare and other commitments – it’s difficult for them to find time to participate in farming organisations and training.”

Emma Harper MSP said: “I was delighted to co-host this event with my colleague Gail.

“We are both MSPs representing rural areas at opposite ends of the country – so it was good to meet in the middle and facilitate this discussion here in Edinburgh.

“I also grew up on a farm and have known of so many women who form the backbone of the agri sector – and know that we need to do more to support them in accessing training and professional development opportunities.

“The Scottish Government’s taskforce has done some excellent work towards identifying barriers – and I look forward to us working together to eradicate them.”

The interim report of the Women in Agriculture taskforce will be launched at this year’s Royal Highland Show.

For more information about the Women in Agriculture research project, download the report presented at the Royal Highland Show 2017.

Article source/image credit: James Hutton Institute