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Amplifying the voices of female farmers: Building a more equitable future for agriculture

The stereotypical farmer overlooks the vast spectrum of roles and skills encompassed by farming, leaving female contributions invisible.

While globally, women make up about 43% of the agricultural workforce, according to the UN FAO, the image of a farmer in the UK remains stubbornly male. Despite official statistics showing that over half of agricultural workers in England and Wales, and a staggering 80% in Scotland are men

Beyond the outdated stereotype, a future of empowered female farmers in the UK beckons. This article that examines the barriers they face and proposes actionable steps to make that future a reality.

Examining the Gender Gap in Agricultural Leadership

One major obstacle facing women in UK farming is the vast gender disparity in ‘farm holders’ – those who manage or own the land. This imbalance has a significant impact, as statistics reveal a stark chasm: only 16% of farm holders in England and a mere 7% in Scotland are women. This stark underrepresentation stifles the contributions and potential of a large portion of the agricultural workforce.

The vast gulf between the high number of women working in UK farms and the meagre percentage holding ownership or leadership positions paints a stark picture of untapped potential. This imbalance highlights a fertile ground for growth and diversity in the industry, waiting to be cultivated.

Copa, the body meant to represent the UK’s farming industry, stands at a staggering 84% male. This stark underrepresentation of women means crucial voices are missing from discussions on critical agricultural issues. As a result, important concerns and perspectives may remain unheard, potentially hindering effective solutions and leaving certain problems unaddressed.

Uprooting Inequality

Beyond the dusty image of a silent farm wife lies a vibrant tapestry of women actively shaping the future of agriculture. The myth of sons as sole inheritors fails to capture the countless daughters managing, owning, and driving innovation on farms across the country. It’s time to cultivate a new narrative, one that recognizes the immense potential of women to lead, grow, and enrich the agricultural landscape.

No longer content to toil in the shadows, women are claiming their rightful place in agriculture. This rising tide is evident in statistics showing a significant female workforce and initiatives like “Farms To Feed Us.” This platform, spearheaded by Catherine St Germans, empowers women farmers to showcase their entrepreneurial spirit and surplus produce, shattering the myth of silent sidelines.

Across professions like agriculture and construction, a stubborn stereotype persists that women aren’t capable of handling heavy machinery, handling the maintainances of them, installing  hydraulic cylinder components if needed In farms, that translates to effortlessly manoeuvring powerful harvesters, tractors, and mowers. While the mental image of women commanding hydraulic beasts might surprise some, for many in these fields, its simply everyday reality, honed through experience and expertise. Dismissing women’s aptitude for operating heavy machinery –  is nothing more than outdated bias – one demonstrably contradicted by reality.

As the agricultural industry embraces entrepreneurial spirit, it presents a unique opportunity to attract more women. Increased visibility of the vital contributions women makes, along with a supportive and inclusive environment, can nurture a future where they thrive as leaders and innovators.

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