International Day of Rural Women – celebrating the beating heart of agricultureOctober 15, 2020
Despite being heavily dependent on the contribution of women both on and off the paddock, the role women play in Australian agriculture has historically been under-recognised.
As women begin to represent greater numbers in agricultural courses, research positions and leadership roles, there has been a greater push to highlight the impact of women on Australia’s $62.2 billion industry.
On October 15, the International Day of Rural Women seeks to do just that by celebrating the women in rural areas who have dedicated their lives to their work and communities.
Rebecca Raymond, a Territory Manager with leading seed provider Pacific Seeds, said that in her 15 years in agriculture she’s seen the number of women working in the industry significantly increase.
“It can be tricky being a women in an industry that is made up largely of men, but as more women pursue roles in agriculture, and as new generations enter the workforce, we’re seeing a real shift,” said Ms Raymond.
“My role as territory manager is entirely based on my ability to connect and maintain relationships with growers, commercial agents, and agronomists.
“It’s can be an emotional role because you get to know these growers and learn about their lives, their families, when their businesses are thriving or struggling.
“For women, I do think there is always a level of having to prove yourself when you’re working with people who have been in this industry since they were kids and come from generations of expertise.
“Being a people-person has helped, I think you’ve got to be in these types of roles.
“The space for women in agriculture is growing and it’s fantastic to see so many young women pursuing careers in this industry and degrees in ag science.”
Based on data from the 2016 census, women account for over 30 per cent of Australia’s agricultural labor force, with these numbers expected to have considerably grown as more women pursue studies in agriculture.
“Women have always been the heart of the farming families and historically their contribution to the industry had gone largely unacknowledged, or at the very least overshadowed,” said Ms Raymond.
“Now we’re seeing the daughters from these families return to run their own properties or take over the family business – I know it makes a huge difference in how women are perceived in the industry.
“There is certainly an energy that women bring to the industry that is important, but I think that is the same for any industry.
“When you have the access to a diverse range of people, it benefits all aspects of the industry immeasurably.
“I still believe there are ways to go – the industry needs to continue to support positive change and funnily enough I think COVID has actually helped that progress in some respect.
“Working from home and the growth in access to technology has been really beneficial for women, particularly for working mothers and new parents.
“Remote access to work is a great way to help women transition from maternity leave to part or full time work, and COVID has really accelerated this kind of flexibility.
“In general this helps both men and women share the load more at home and with their families – we’re seeing how beneficial it can be for everyone.
“As working parents, both my partner and I have the ability to work from home when needed and it just makes our lives easier.
“Knowing we can share things when need be, or one person can take on more while the other focuses on work is great – it’s goes a long way in making this industry a place where both men and women can thrive personally and professionally.