Education is vital for change in agriculture

By Country News

Women on the land wear many hats: farm manager, family counsellor, office worker. So why are so many women not identifying as farmers?

A report released by South Australian Nuffield Scholar Randall Wilksch sheds new light on this important issue for Australian agriculture.

Supported by the Grains Research and Development Corporation, Mr Wilksch received a 2016 Nuffield Scholarship to investigate the visibility of women in agriculture, and the need to increase the number of women in management and industry roles.

In his report, Mr Wilksch included a range of case studies and insights from conversations he had with more than 60 women around the world, who work across the broadacre and livestock farming sectors, as well as agribusiness, education and policy development.

‘‘Understanding why there are less women in Australian agriculture, when women are so vital to its ability to overcome challenges and remain globally competitive, has been at the heart of my Nuffield report,’’ he said.

‘‘I spoke to women around the world to gain a deeper understanding of some of the cultural, social and financial barriers they face.

‘‘This research revealed that, despite positive steps in recent years, there is still an urgent need for change if we are to realise real diversity and equality in agriculture.’’

Mr Wilksch said education was a key vehicle to enable this change, explaining that while more women were studying agriculture and working in agronomy than ever before, the sector remained largely dominated by males.

‘‘In the livestock industries, for instance, the number of women enrolled in tertiary agricultural courses has now surpassed male students, which could lead to a flow-on effect of more females taking on senior management roles.

‘‘Real change starts with education at an early age. It’s important that agricultural subjects go beyond just the practical aspects of farming, to focus on the business and cultural elements critical to any agricultural enterprise.

‘‘For grains, we need to increase interest in our field, and to challenge long-held social complexities associated with gender specific roles, in areas such as machinery.

‘‘And above all, we must encourage every child’s love of the land.’’