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Did you know that women make up nearly 50% of the agricultural workforce? They’re talented, organised and extremely hard working just like my beautiful wife, Ruby. Not only does she look after us as a family and help me on the farm, she also contributes with an off-farm income as an agronomist AND has also obtained a PhD in science for her studies into the relationship of irrigated crops vs non-irrigated crops! Crikey! She is one smart cookie! I am very lucky to have her. A report released a couple of years ago by Future Directions International titled ‘Empowering Women in Agriculture: Australia and Beyond’ stated:

“In Australia, contributions by women in the agricultural industry are not given the recognition they deserve. Despite being a key factor in Australian agricultural production, women are given little public recognition in the industry.

“Lynne Johnston, post-doctoral student at the University of Western Australia, presented research in 2014 to show that women’s participation in primary producer organisations is still limited. Men aged more than 35 years are still the most likely to be elected to boards, although 40 per cent of Australian farmers are women, with an average incidence of tertiary education that is double that of men. Looking at trends in board membership over 50 years, she describes farming decision-making bodies as “closed social networks”. In 2014, there was only one woman on the board of the National Farmers’ Federation.

“Empowering women in agriculture is essential; not only for gender equity, but also for the economic sustainability of global primary industries. At a global level, the “gender gap” in agriculture has been brought to the forefront of policy dialogue.

“Women make up half of the agricultural workforce and represent a large part of our next generation of workers, managers, researchers and decision makers. It is therefore necessary, as a matter of urgency and for the sake of the sustainable future of our agricultural industry, that women’s empowerment is taken seriously. The government needs to initiate structural changes that encourage agricultural organisations and agribusinesses to prioritise women’s involvement at all levels.”

It’s interesting to note that three years on from the release of this report, the NFF still only has one female board member, but, it’s great to see that she is now the President. Go Fiona!

And as reported last Thursday, the Gender Equity Insights 2017 report revealed that agriculture, forestry and fishing are among the worst industries for equal pay for women. Women earned 21.8% less than blokes in agriculture, forestry and fishing in 2016 and the proportion of women in leadership roles in the same industries sat at just 14 per cent. Gippsland veggie grower, Emma Germano commented, “when you do have more women in leadership it doesn’t just bring down the pay gap in genders it also leads to better economic performance.”

I wholeheartedly agree. I know many talented female farmers and women involved in primary industries doing beaut things for our country – whether they’re working the land, in the lab, in administration or using a hand-piece to shear some sheep.

One way that Ruby and I know that we can start making a difference, is by helping to educate Australia’s kids about women’s roles in agriculture. Not just today’s roles, but how women have helped build the agricultural industry in Australia to the successful state that it currently is now – equally. We’ll be releasing a free curriculum-aligned teacher’s guide later this year for pre-school and junior primary which will do just this. As well as looking to the past, it will ask kids to dream about what innovative careers may be available in their future. I think there’s going to be some rippers.

The latest book in our series, ‘Ruby and the Dairy Dilemma’ has been flying off the shelf. It’s clear that my little future farming mates want to hear just as much from me, as they do from Ruby, which I love.

Here’s hoping that with more education, we see lots of talented women like Ruby get the opportunity to have their voices heard and contribute to some key decisions being made in Australia’s agricultural future.

Happy International Women’s Day, mate!

To read the full report, click here: http://bit.ly/1E2QXSj

To sign up to be notified when our third free teacher’s guide is available, click here: http://www.georgethefarmer.com.au/sign-up/?id=37

#IWD #IWD2017 #BeBoldForChange

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