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New research shows six in ten women farmers feel held back by sexist industry attitudes

The survey was carried out as part of Farmer’s Weekly Level the Field Campaign, which aims to engage industry stakeholders to make agriculture fairer, more equitable and more inviting for women.

Farmer harvesting organic lettuce. Copyright: DisobeyArt | shutterstock

Farmer harvesting organic lettuce. Copyright: DisobeyArt | shutterstock

Research by Farmer's Weekly has found that while more women and men are more likely to recommend a career in agriculture to women than they were in 2014, a whopping 60% of women surveyed felt industry attitudes were obstacles to their own farming success, up from 52% in 2014.
Women reported that other gendered barriers made it more challenging for them to succeed in farming, with 75% of women surveyed saying childcare commitments and 59% saying self-confidence prevented them from achieving career goals. 
Despite women making up 43% of the global agricultural labour force, many of the women surveyed said they found there were still entrenched beliefs about the types of agricultural labour suited to men and women that frustrated their ability to progress in the industry, with one respondent saying:

Working in dairy on many farms, I have been automatically pushed towards youngstock work because of my gender, as it’s seen as more of a maternal role. I feel that young men are invited to learn and carry out field work [such] as silaging, hay making etc. I have never once been considered or asked if this is a task I would like to do. Being female also sees me pushed to milk a lot more often than the men.

Another accused some farming families of perpetuating sexist beliefs about agricultural labour through successive generations of farmers. 

“Daughters are overlooked; it’s still all about the next generation being boys. Many farming families are desperate for boys to take over the farm. Some have multiple children just to get a boy.”

Farmer’s Weekly’s Level the Field campaign is hoping to tackle these gender inequalities in farming. Abi Kay, Deputy Editor of Farmer’s Weekly, says a range of issues need to be dealt with before real change is seen for women, including addressing gendered imbalances land ownership rates, succession, access to private finance or government support, flexible working, and prejudice towards women in the agricultural industry. 

 Will White, Sustain’s Sustainable Farming Coordinator, says:

The Level the Field Campaign shines a light on one of the most pressing issues in farming today. One only needs to glance at the current demographics for age, race, and gender in farming to know there are some huge imbalances present. Abi Kay's work on this campaign, aimed at tackling the key systemic issues behind these imbalances, is leading the way for making farming a fairer, more equitable, and more inviting place for women.

If you want to get involved with the campaign, as a sponsor, ambassador, or any kind of supporter, Farmer’s Weekly is asking you get in touch with Abi Kay - 

Published Friday 5 January 2024

Sustainable Farming Campaign: Sustain encourages integration of sustainable food and farming into local, regional and national government policies.

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