Report Synopsis

Encouraging more women into broadscale agriculture. Where are the females in the grains industry?

Randall Wilksch

The participation of women in the grains industry is very low and does not seem to be rapidly changing. Compared to 20 years ago, there are more women studying agriculture and there are women in agronomy roles, but the Australian grains industry remains dominated by men.

After interviewing over 60 women it appears the problem is global and it is a problem hindering the successful growth and progress of the grains industry into the future. As Maree Crawford (Elders) stated, “It is not just a gender equity issue – it is an issue for the Australian agricultural sector. Lack of influence and involvement from half of a potential resource is a lost opportunity for input and growth.”

The reasons for women not being part of the grains industry are similar across the globe (Australia, New Zealand, Europe, Canada and the USA) and across sectors of the grains industry (farmers, agribusiness, universities, government and policy makers). The most common key reasons suggested through this study include:

  • Cultural and historic beliefs and attitudes against the role of women as farm managers.
  • Lack of acceptance by many industry participants of women in farm business leadership roles rather than being an invisible business partner.
  • A difficulty in accessing finance in a male-dominated agribusiness financial world.
  • Lack of engagement and knowledge transfer by industry bodies, researchers, agronomists, machinery dealers and other farmers.

Additional reasons for women not actively participating in agriculture include a perception that women lack:

  • Physical strength.
  • Skills and confidence with machinery operation and maintenance.
  • A woman’s role is still often seen as a mother and traditionally the primary child carer.

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