From education to employment

Cultivating girl culture in agriculture

Kaitlyn Bain, Zoe Tabois, and Maria Bennett

The NC Agriculture course at Borders College is enjoying a ‘bumper’ year for gender equality, with a remarkable 35% of its current students being female (5 in a group of 14).  This is a figure to be celebrated, showing that the College is well on track to achieving the Scottish Government’s target of balancing gender representation across industries affected by occupational segregation by the year 2020.

Four of the students – Kaitlyn Bain, Zoe Tabois, Maria Bennett (all pictured) and Rosie Shiels – explained what drove them towards Agriculture.  Kaitlyn and Zoe, both with some prior farm experience, had previously studied the same Care course at College but realised they preferred to be outdoors gaining practical skills.

Rosie and Maria meanwhile had both dabbled in land-based courses before, with Maria getting a taste for agriculture on the College’s Introduction to Land-based Industries course, and Rosie completing both Animal Care and Forestry courses prior to applying to NC Agriculture.

Each has individual preferences of what they enjoy most on the course, but Maria and Zoe count driving the machinery as a real perk and something they relish.

Agriculture Lecturer Sheila Glen was brought up on a farm herself and knows first-hand of the challenges females can face in a predominantly male environment, having battled her own way up from Farm Secretary to hands-on outdoor roles:

“When I talk to the group about gender equality, I like to reference the Women’s Land Army and women in third world countries working arable land every day. Women are adaptable by nature which actually makes the agriculture industry ideal for them as they will get stuck into all tasks.”

Sheila notes that family farms are increasingly being passed on to female family members as they truly see the benefits, also allowing male family members to choose alternative career paths which may not have been the case previously.

There is an overriding feeling of comradeship and a true team spirit among the NC Agriculture girls, with Kaitlyn saying: “Having other girls alongside me on my course helps to motivate me.”

Maria, who works at Bowhill Estate Farm alongside one other female member of staff, has also experienced this in the workplace, saying she is well supported and has found everyone really welcoming.

They have all had positive experiences in agriculture and do not feel anything less than equal to their male counterparts, a fantastic indicator that the sector is changing and that females most certainly have a place in the agricultural landscape. Sheila herself believes that the kindness and support of all Land-based staff, particularly fellow Agriculture lecturers Andrew Johnson and Stuart Nimmo, is an encouraging and inspirational influence on the students.

Those not already in employment are still deciding on their future career paths, but all are keen to find positions going forward, with Zoe keeping her options open by also considering a potential return to care.

Sheila, who the students credit as being a great support during their time at College, sums it up by saying:

“I have seen a real shift in the past 20 years and as a college, we have the chance to educate students who may not understand the problems of gender in their chosen vocation.”

If you are interested in a career in Agriculture, visit our website to browse our Land-based courses.

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