Women make up about half of the international agricultural workforce, but exercise significantly less power in the sector than men. 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.
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 over half 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 that 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 is 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 among farm business women. The workshops demonstrated that many women are interested in pursuing formal or executive leadership roles in community organisations, on industry boards and in government policy forums.
This week QFF launched a survey to help industry better understand the roles women play in agricultural businesses, rural communities and industries, their leadership aspirations and their priorities for skills development and support.
QFF strongly encourages all rural women to complete the survey to provide QFF and industry members with the data needed to better represent the sector and advocate for continued support for programs that develop and support women in agriculture.
QFF and industry members also continue to call on the State Government to commit to supporting Queensland women looking to take the next step and join the movement to improve representation with agriculture. QFF’s existing partnership with the Queensland Office of Small Business and the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries provides the ideal platform to lead a government funded mentoring and leadership development program that can capitalise upon the clear sentiment and existing skill set of women in our sector.
Improving the gender balance in industry leadership and improving the representation of rural women on government boards can only strengthen our sector – and our state.
QFF’s Women in business survey can be taken here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/QPJCB5S