Women play essential role in agriculture

WOMEN make up about half of the international agricultural workforce, but exercise significantly less power in the sector than men. Here in Australia, women in our sector are recognised and wield more power than many of their overseas counterparts, particularly those in developing countries, but there is still plenty of room for improvement.

Stuart Armitage

Stuart Armitage

The important roles women play within Queensland are under the spotlight this week as we celebrate Queensland Women’s Week. The essential role women are playing within the state’s agricultural sector is increasingly being acknowledged, with the state finalists of the AgriFutures Rural Women’s Award being recognised later this month.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 30 per cent of the farmers and farm managers in Queensland are women. In higher education programs, women represented more than half of the enrolments in agriculture in 2016, and their enrolment numbers were increasing while enrolments for men were decreasing. Because women have not traditionally self-identified as farmers or farm workers in agricultural surveys or the census, their role within the sector is less visible to government and policy makers. It also impacts some women’s willingness to take their legitimate place in decision-making and leadership forums – at business, industry and government levels. This issue has begun to be publically discussed through media and specific campaigns like the ‘Invisible Farmer Project’. A relatively new initiative, the campaign aims to educate the community on women’s role within the sector.

While there is no denying we still have a way to go to better translate the role women in our sector play into proportionate representation in leadership roles, progress is being made. The profile of women in agriculture is growing through increasing participation in industry forums, trade delegations and social media. QFF wholeheartedly supports these efforts and are actively looking to support and lead initiatives that will deliver more women in leadership roles. In October last year, around 80 women participated in a series of workshops hosted by QFF that were focused on advancing leadership and business management skills amongst farm business women. The workshops demonstrated that many women are interested in pursuing formal or executive leadership roles across many platforms.