WHAT AND WHY?
In September 2019 I began a PhD research project at the University of Nottingham documenting the roles of women in UK agriculture.
'Farmher Bloggs' is all about sharing the process and findings of this research with industry to meet the following aims.
Address a lack of UK research focusing upon women in agriculture;
Understand key challenges and opportunities for women;
Identify factors affecting women's contribution, participation and leadership uptake;
Make industry and policy recommendations based upon findings.
Women play an important role in the economic strengthening and sustainability of the agricultural sector.
As increasing pressure is placed upon farm income, women have proved to play a vital role in farm survival strategies including unpaid farm labour, off-farm work and diversification.
Women are highly represented in fast-growing agricultural markets such as organic, local, direct-to-market, and farm tourism.
Research beyond the sector also indicates the benefits of gender integrated workforces which include improved financial performance, social and ethical compliance, and an indirect positive effect upon firm value.
The percentage of women in agriculture within developed countries continues to grow.
Very little research has been produced in developed countries where farm women are viewed as farmers rather than a consumer or spouse.
The qualitative/theoretical nature of existing research can make it hard to generalise findings or make actionable policy recommendations.
Significant barriers to women’s participation, visibility and leadership are shown to include succession, access to training and education, organisations and policy.
These barriers are largely specific to the agricultural industry and are not reported by women in other rural/family businesses.
According to Defra (2016) women represent 55% of family farm workers, yet represent only 16% of farm holders and 17% of farm managers.
Unlike many other developed countries where agricultural women face similar problems, the UK (with the exception of Scotland) is yet to implement any overarching strategies to break down social constructs or empower women to undertake leadership roles.
As Britain prepares to leave the EU and forms its own domestic agricultural policy, UK-wide research is needed.
While the position of women in agriculture has definitely improved, there is still much that can be done.
Research and initiatives across other developed countries show that increasing visibility and supporting women's development can unlock untapped talent and drive industry forwards.
Women and men are vital partners in farming. This research is not about giving women in agriculture special treatment or an advantage over men.
Rather, it is to use robust research methods to remove subjectivity and explore what challenges and opportunities currently exist in the UK – and make actionable recommendations based upon this.
Solid research will help empower, rather than divide industry.
A full research plan is available. Papers and findings will also be available once published and approved.
Read our research thoughts, findings and developments.
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This research is being conducted within the Department of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences at the University of Nottingham.
With thanks to NFU Mutual Charitable Trust Centenary Award 75% fee funding.