The Assembly's Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs Committee yesterday launched its Breaking the Grass Ceiling' Report which highlights the barriers faced by local women working in agriculture. The report also makes a number of recommendations on practical and policy measures that could be introduced to promote, encourage and support women in the sector.
Speaking after the launch of the report, the Committee Chairperson, Declan McAleer MLA yesterday said:
Local women play a crucial role within the farming and agriculture sector and are, in many ways, the backbone of family farms, often spearheading diversification and modernisation. However, unfortunately, their role has been overlooked for decades and issues including traditional practices of farm inheritance have prevented women from entering and thriving in what is typically seen as a male-dominated environment.
In carrying out this review it was vitally important to us that we heard from women directly. We were therefore delighted to receive nearly 180 responses to our survey from women living or working in the local agriculture industry. Our findings highlight the complexity of challenges faced by women and the range of practical, social and cultural barriers which prevent them from taking on opportunities and progressing in the sector.
While 98% of respondents agreed that women help improve farm productivity, a staggering 70% told us that the culture within the sector is a challenge, that women are often not treated equally to men and that there is a lack of acceptance of women farmers in some quarters.
Our survey also found that as well as undertaking hands-on tasks, many women in the sector juggle their work with running the household, managing finances and paperwork as well as looking after children and older relatives. Some 67% of respondents noted that they also hold down jobs off the farm'.